• Author:Ben Jones
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A balanced budget but no political punch

Moderation in all things. That is – apparently – the secret to success in life. If that is true, Philip Hammond must be the most successful Chancellor of all time. His Budget today was a triumph is tying to balance many demands, conflicting priorities and his desire to nudge a little in a number of areas to demonstrate he was taking action but not too much action to rock any boats.

This was classic ‘spreadsheet” or “Box office Phil”; he did a reasonablyly competent job at projecting confidence and positivity with the nation’s finance and fiscal outlook but – as predicted in yesterday’s post – he failed to set out a compelling, exciting, enthusing vision for the future. This may have been decent economics but it was pretty ordinary politics.

The stamp duty rabbit – which sounds a good idea at first glance – one learns to judge all Budgets cautiously until the small print has dried and its full impact has been analysed, Red Book and all – will only partly address the concerns that many first time buyers feel. The commitments on house building – also part of this story – feel like more of the same – and the money for the NHS is better than nothing but not the radical rethink of funding or necessary amounts as requested by Simon Stevens to convince anyone of the Chancellors’ political commitment to ending austerity. Ditto with his comments about nurses pay. It was all a bit half-hearted – lacking bite and punch – not the big ideas; the game changers that are needed in the current political landscape.

He is a Chancellor working with what he has got – sadly for him this means not very much. Certainly not a working majority in parliament; not a clear political strategy towards the next election; not a supportive and inspiring leader; not a narrative to tell the electorate to bring his party back into the game; not many cards to play. Philip Hammond did his best today but as I feared it will be not be good enough to take the political fight to Labour – not by some distance.

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Photo taken from BBC News website – homepage

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