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A yes man, yes man, my kingdom for a yes man

Philip Fisher responds to the demise of Sajid Javid and looks ahead to the tenure of Rishi Sunak and the prospect of a Budget.

14th Feb 2020
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Sajid Javid

The world of accountancy had been building itself up for Sajid Javid’s long-awaited Budget debut on 11 March. As readers will be well aware, this writer did not have much confidence in the new Chancellor’s grasp of the tax system but was prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

It's even more surprising then that a man who seemed relatively harmless if ineffectual should apparently have been sacked summarily by the Prime Minister.

Readers might question the verb used in the last sentence, not fully understanding that in political circles, the word “resign” is, as often as not, a euphemism to cover a brutal dismissal.

That was certainly the view taken by political commentators in the media in the aftermath of Javid’s departure taken alongside his bold but possibly inadvisable words of farewell.

In retrospect, it is possible that the departing politician’s original appointment was made under the mistaken assumption that his degree was not from Exeter University but Exeter College Oxford.

That error is not to be repeated, since this week’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, former Goldman Sachs banker Rishi Sunak, is an Oxford graduate and, even better, studied PPE, the favoured degree course for government ministers.

One hopes that Javid’s shoes are the right size, since there is nothing worse than stepping into the footwear of a dead man and finding that the leather pinches your toes.

Reading the runes does not offer much encouragement. Apparently, the Prime Minister was so scared of any kind of independent behaviour on the part of his red brick Chancellor that, without notice, he blacklisted not one or two Javid advisers but the whole damn lot of them.

Those who know their King Lear will instantly spot a trend that proved popular with his daughters Goneril and Regan, whereby every one of the King’s servants was banned, albeit less brutally and more gradually than the methods perpetrated by Johnson yesterday.

Where does this leave us? Who knows?

After over two years without a meaningful Budget, it is unclear whether Sunak will be ready (or permitted) to stand at the dispatch box on the allotted Wednesday in mid-March.

If he does, there has to be every chance that, like his predecessor but one on the last occasion that Parliament assembled to hear about the latest spending and tax changes, there will be no significant tax measures.

This will be great news for the tax avoidance and evasion industry, which thrives on lethargy on the part of government. These upstanding citizens come up with a raft of schemes that they know will get outlawed in the fullness of time and then pray that they are permitted a few years of earning power before the axe falls. The number of years is increasing as this Government ducks the issues.

In particular, it will be fascinating to see whether Johnson (or should that read Sunak) decides to bow to pressure from Donald Trump and scrap the digital services tax. Given his desperate need for a trade deal and the amount of effort that will be expended on trying to sort out the European position in the next 10 and a half months, that has to be a likely outcome.

It gets boring to remind everyone on an almost weekly basis that the Tory manifesto included promises to freeze rates of income tax, NIC and VAT but that has surely become a certainty this time around.

Now it has to be possible that every other tax will be frozen too, while spending goes through the roof as the Northern Powerhouse becomes a financial black hole of epic proportions.

Sajid Javid might not but the rest of us have exciting times ahead.

Replies (9)

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By Tim Vane
14th Feb 2020 18:41

Don’t know much about politics. Do know a tiny bit about sport. If the new manager of a football team is to succeed he has to be allowed to pick the players that he wants, play the formation he wants to play and choose the coaches he wants to use. If the players aren’t right or don’t have the skills or won’t work with the coaches he picks then he has every right to pick his own team.

Results are want counts but we are still in pre-season and you can’t tell how the season will go just by looking at what happened during the transfer window.

Let’s wait and see how the new team plays before reviewing their performance shall we.

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Replying to Tim Vane:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Feb 2020 09:40

Yes Tim, but in this case you have the manager not listening to the physio when they say a player is not fit and playing them anyway and sacking the physio for raising their voice in protest. Not listening when the groundsman says the pitch is frozen in parts and trying to close down the local radio station by removing their sponsorship for daring to to do anything other than loyally sing the managers praises when the star striker is play injured, and goes down hard in a tackle on a frozen pitch and shatters his leg. Its the fault of the other team and anyone who says different is fired. Dictatorships don't tend to last long.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
17th Feb 2020 10:09

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:
Dictatorships don't tend to last long.

Tell that to North Korea!
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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Feb 2020 10:47

@Lone Wolf, I think that is pretty, much the model Boris's model.

Cultivate a largely imagined enemy, isolate the country , ensure all your press sings your praises, brutally crush anyone who opposes you, create the odd international incident in order to demonstrate your protection of 'the people'.
Tell everyone the country is brilliant and the best in the world, and spend any money you have on vanity projects to ensure the great leader's glory is reflected. I wonder how long it will be before we start seeing Statues of Boris in classical poses, and a knock on the door from GCHQ for any domestic terrorists who don't take part in the nightly praise.

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By SteLacca
16th Feb 2020 21:00

But, Tim, there is no "new team". They've sacked the first team and replaced it with the reserves.

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By vstrad
17th Feb 2020 12:02

Not sure having an "independent" Chancellor has ever been beneficial.

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Replying to vstrad:
Chris M
By mr. mischief
17th Feb 2020 13:12

Numerous times in our history having an independent Chancellor has been beneficial. This has especially been the case when the PM was embarking on a major borrow and spend programme, as our current one seems to be doing.

Whilst the Blair-Brown era is rightly criticised for seeing much conflict between 10 and 11, there was also much benefit. Especially in the early years, when Brown doggedly stuck to very prudent borrowing in the face of much pressure from number 10 to loosen the purse strings.

The role of the Chancellor is to be the gate-keeper of the public purse, not a mere cipher of a spendthrift living next door.

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By Charlie Carne
17th Feb 2020 13:37

If the new Chancellor wants to continue the tax simplification programme, he could re-sync the primary and secondary NI thresholds that, after three years of running in sync, are scheduled to be separated again for 2020/21. I had assumed that the big rise in the primary threshold to £9,500 for 2020/21 was the first step on the way to syncing the personal allowance to the NI thresholds (even if full merger of the tax and NI systems is too much to hope for) but the fact that the secondary threshold is not marching in step with the primary is a worrying concern.

The other PAYE suggestion I'd make would be to simplify the complex (and easy to get around) rules around sole director companies not being eligible for the Employment Allowance. Such a company can employ someone for a week and this will allow the full £3,000 EA to be claimed. It's a stupidly easy work-around that makes a mockery of what is a sensible restriction. Its purpose is to encourage employment of staff, not to reduce NI on directors' salary so, if I were Chancellor, I would change the rules to only allow the Employment Allowance to be offset against employer's NI contributions for non-directors.

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Hallerud at Easter
17th Feb 2020 14:41

I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament.
I always voted at my party's call,
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
(He never thought of thinking for himself at all.)
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen's Navee!
(He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the Queen's Navee!)

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