Philip Hammond is an odd chap. Despised by his civil servants at defence and the foreign office, the charisma of a bag of pork scratchings and the bonus of being blessed with the emotional intelligence of a tub of pot noodle. Worse, his Budget speech will be delivered with all the warmth and excitement of a speak your weight machine. So don’t expect Johnsonian virtuosity. Thank heavens for small mercies.
At least Hammond would have read and understood his brief. At least he knows where he is going, even if he is not entirely sure how he will get there let alone when. His problem will not be those in front of him, but a lot of those who sit behind. The carpet biters hate him. They want to see him gone. Yesterday. They have a venomous, bile soaked, psychotic hatred of anyone who doesn’t deeply believe, not just say, that Brexit will lead to an Utopian miracle of economic success and prosperity. They desperately want him to fail and want him replaced by a member of their cult. Leadsom, Gove. Anyone who is a true believer. That is why it is so important that he succeeds on Wednesday.
I suspect that unless he has a Greggs moment he will more likely do a Corbyn. Expectations are so low that as long he doesn’t fall over, the ceiling cave in or a Juncker impersonator storm the chamber and hand him a bill for £60 billion, he will survive. His trick will be to play the swivelled eyed game and muse at the wonders and opportunities of a post Brexit Britain. Nobody will believe a word of it, but needs must. He must then give a nod to the city and business that he will be responsible and not steer the government towards the cliff edge. And for heaven’s sake take more than a brief interest in enterprise which has has been lamentably ignored by the government. Housing is rightly top of the agenda. Who can afford a flat even in a dodgy part of London apart from bankers and hedge fund managers? But don’t kid yourself that we are going to win the youth vote with a £300 bribe. If Hammond takes away concessions that people my age have paid a lot of hard earned tax for, there will be serious trouble. We all pray that any eye catching initiatives will not fall apart after a week because they haven’t been properly costed or sold. And if the rumours are true, the whips have been doing an operation to put the kibosh on some of the madder ideas coming from the Treasury. But the fact that this has been ‘leaked’ suggests that this is probably a black ops bit of disinformation.
Sadly, Grieve is right. Some of the Brexiteers have become unhinged. For Cash to say that flotillas of slaughtered British youth died in two World Wars because they wanted Brexit is not just unhinged but damn insulting. And I still can’t quite work out why the government wants to set in stone that we must leave the EU at 11pm on the 29th March 2019 precisely. Madness. It can’t possible be passed and they know it. Was it designed to fail to keep the Brexiteers happy? I really don’t know. I am not a psychiatrist.
So this budget is meant to give the government a boost in the opinion polls. To show confidence, competence and imagination. Oh dear, I fear I must retire to my bed for all of tomorrow. The excitement of a Hammond budget is just too much. But if he pisses too many people off he will be gone by Christmas.