Five things we learned from the Budget
There were a few more fireworks than anticipated in what many assumed would be an uneventful Budget. Here are five things we learned from the chancellor's second outing with the red box:
As a double act, Philip Hammond and Theresa May are not always convincing. In a risky flashback to the Prime Minister’s Tory conference speech, Mr Hammond announced: “I did take the precaution of asking my right honourable friend to bring a packet of cough sweets, just in case.” Upon which Mrs May pulled out the said item and handed it to the chancellor.
The whole thing was cringingly am-dram in execution, but – given reports that the pair can barely stand being in the same room together – there probably was not much opportunity to rehearse the routine.
Mr Hammond tried to dump Fiscal Phil for Funtime Phil. Clearly on a comedy roll, the chortling chancellor was pumping out the one liners, as when he followed an education funding announcement with: “More maths for everyone! Don’t let anyone say I don’t know how to show the nation a good time.”
The chancellor does not mind risking becoming the punch line for other people’s jokes either. Given that critics of Mr Hammond brand him a dour performer who lacks passion, it was brave of him to bring up “the scourge of plastic” early in his speech. And when the chancellor got on to the subject of “driverless vehicles” a raft of Labour hands launched into the air to point at the government benches.
Brexit gets a bigger cash injection than the NHS. Despite the boasts of Leave campaigners that EU withdrawal would be a boon for the health service, Mr Hammond announced he was pumping an extra £3bn into Brexit preparations, while handing another £2.8bn to the NHS.
This could prove tricky for foreign secretary Boris Johnson who was at times whacking his thigh with a rolled up order paper so vigorously in approval of Mr Hammond that some onlookers wondered if he would need to pop along to A&E after the speech.
The future’s so bright, Mrs May cannot put her chancellor in the shade? Mr Hammond repeatedly insisted he did not want to look backwards, and given the widely held view that Mrs May planned to move him from the treasury if she had not lost her Commons majority, it is easy to see why. The chancellor kept repeating the word “future”, perhaps in order to ram home to the PM the idea that he really still does have one.