Hammond lives to joke another day
While the jokes continued to flow, there were few other similarities between Philip Hammond’s first and second Budget speeches.
Whether it was the OBR’s gloomy economic forecast that prefaced the day’s announcements or the fear of having to conduct another screeching policy U-turn, Hammond’s speech lacked the headline-grabbing statements so beloved by his predecessors.
However, there were plenty of smaller measures announced that will keep the keener-eyed among us busy for the next few days, with consultations on private sector IR35, the abolition of CGT exemption for non-residents holding UK commercial real estate and digital companies royalty charges catching the eye.
As the dust settles it looks like the Chancellor has avoided the ‘Hamm-fisted’ Budget that would have resulted in the end of his time at 11 Downing Street.
The £3bn for ‘Hard Brexit’ contingency planning will have pleased Brexiteers in his party, while cash for the NHS and Universal Credit satisfied those calling for an end to austerity – quite the tightrope act considering the fiscal headwinds at play.
The business lobby also seemed generally pleased with the day’s work. Businesses are not generally fond of change unless it’s for a very good reason, so the lack of a VAT threshold reduction (in spite of an over-dramatic pause in the speech) and didn’t cancel the planned CT drop to 17%
While the Chancellor had very little economic headroom to play with his Stamp Duty for first-time buyers giveaway was greeted with enthusiasm by his own party, even if the OBR added insult to their economic forecast injury by stating that it would not fix the very problem it is being brought in to solve.
It has to be remembered that in its immediate aftermath Hammond’s first Budget wasn’t seen as the misadventure it is now widely regarded as. It was only when people started to pick at the threads that it unravelled, and only time will tell if this will be the case again.
For now at least, it seems like the Chancellor lives to joke another day.