Today’s Budget was a 0-0 draw in which the new Chancellor promised increasingly distant goals, and the new Shadow Chancellor played without a forward line. Occasionally amusing but mainly depressing, it highlighted the mediocrity of Conservative spin, the haunted man at the Treasury, and the hopeless failure of Opposition ideologists.
Vonny the turbo-driven female cattle auctioneer at Boombust TV obviously has a bit of a thing for our shiny new Chancellor of the Exchequer. So much so, she’s taken to calling him ‘Phil’. It comes out like Feel Heeyamon, and you have to laugh because it’s just so totally (or toedallee) unlikely: whichever way you think your way into this one, when Hammond goes down the pub, you just know they call him Philip. Or “Mr Hammond, sir”.
To be fair to Hammond minor, he or somebody in his entourage knows how to write a witty line. I would say that in his maiden effort today, he came across as quite a wag. And I don’t mean by that he shags footballers, although in these surreal times it wouldn’t surprise me: I mean he gives good standup. You get the feeling he may have started out in Geordie Working Mens’ clubs, and then added the accent later.
As for the meat of the speech, I’d call it the triumph of woffle over offal. Like all pols of every hue these days, he starts from the entirely reasonable assumption that most voters can add up the scores in Strictly, but not much else. So he says “one billion Pounds” as if it might be the global gdp, and people are impressed.
Bunging a £1bn investment into internet infrastructure is like offering an alcoholic 1p off a pint of shandy. It’s under 10% of what Microsoft wrote off dumping Windows8. It is a new-born whalette weeing into the biggest ocean you can imagine.
But he got away with it (as these gargoyles usually do) for three reasons: one, he smiled a lot and evoked hear-hears; two, hacks are a mixture of paid bumboys and The Severely Stupid; and three, as always the Opposition not only hasn’t got a clue….it knows neither the problem nor the cure. Park that one, and we’ll come back to it a little later.
He may smile and he may crack jokes, but I have the measure of Mr Hammond. Call it what you will – a lifetime of watching body language or good old-fashioned commonsense discernment with added research – I know Philip Hammond is a haunted man.
Equally, it sounds forceful and radical for Hammond to go back to one Budget a year, but I would guess that even the thickest plank watching his speech today will wonder whatTF relevance it has to anything….apart from making Phil less accountable than he is already.
On his forehead, Phil has a sign in flashing Dayglo that says ‘Ambitious snake who wants to be Prime Minister’. No matter how much he tries to distract his audience, it’s still there – winking on and off like unwanted diner-neon torturing a man with no curtains who desperately needs to sleep…the better to wake up next day and take over the world.
For Hammond knows – being a learned man and student of political history via his Oxford PPE degree – that a poisoned Chancellery does not a Prime Minister make. He has inherited the arithmetic of a draper’s prodigal powder-pooped son, and he needs a way out of it. Otherwise, he realises, he will just go down in the annals as another nonentity unable to make the giant leap from Number 11 to Number 10.
So his only chance is to keep putting off what’s been put off for far too long. Although things are as bad as they could possibly be, Hammond says they won’t get any worse….in this Parliament. He says “welfare spending spiraled out of control”, but he doesn’t include bankers – by far Britain’s biggest sovereign cost – in that definition. He keeps on using the IMF as a source for UK economic outlook when it’s always wrong. He abandons Osborne’s 2020 deficit balance for a limp “some point in the next Parliament” prediction.
But he’s a shrewd lad, our Phil: having inherited a whopping debt, he is that man desperately in need of a scapegoat to explain political failure.
And of course – he being a Remoaner – the sacrificial goat is Brexit.
So it is that the Chancellor – during every available interview since his speech today – has been saying that “the cost of Brexit is even worse than we thought”.
It could, he said, be “as much as £220 billion”. My God: that’s almost 20% of a bank bailout.
But when pushed, Hammers says the hit will be £58bn. Another figure picked from the air. Another stat based on nothing beyond the back of a recycled Treasury envelope. More scaremongery adding no grist to the rumour-mill.
At base-level, this is what haunts Philip Hammond: he has a horrible feeling that Brexit will not deliver the disaster he needs. He senses that Theresa May will go for a Spring election next year “because Remoaners are trying to wreck Brexit”. And he fears that – with nothing and nobody to blame except himself – he will end up a Nowhere Man with nothing he dare blame.
In that context, you’d have thought deconstructing the Hammond bollocks should’ve been a relatively easy task for Old McDonnell: surely he would point out that “jobs growth” in terms of hours/wages is a statistical fantasy, and the National Debt is now 50% higher than in 2010? Surely he could give out with an attention-getting (and justified) analogy based on maxed-out credit cards?
But Old McDonnell had not a farm. He had not even a yarn. He offered only a yawn. His response was a squib soaked in small-beer statistics – the monotone stumbling delivery of a Stalinist technocrat talking of “no new ideas”, while offering none himself. It showed no passion, no persuasion, no preparation, and above all no punch. The Chancellor dismissed it as if he might be swatting the last, slow surviving fly of Autumn.
All of these people are a waste of money and space. They’re either filling their pockets or full of ideological shit. They’re abusing the supply of Nitrous Oxygen we have available on the planet. Nothing will change until we change to a system encouraging creative ideas, and suspicious of dead-hand Whiteminster process.