This week in politics: Tax, Tarzan and Theresa
The week that was
The Government’s promise of a ‘boring’ Budget was largely realised on Wednesday, yet the announcement wasn’t without controversy. Hammond broke a Tory manifesto pledge by unveiling a tax rise for the self-employed, who will see National Insurance contributions rise by 2 per cent over the next two years. The Budget did seek to address rising concerns about the provision of social care, as £2 billion in funding has been committed over the next three years, and following widespread concern over the impact of business rates, the Chancellor also announced a discount for 90 per cent of pubs in England and a £300m discretionary relief fund to be administered by Local Authorities. It wasn’t all good news for pubs however, as the price of a pint is set to increase after a inflationary rise in beer duty for the first time in five years.
Elsewhere, the House of Lords inflicted a further setback on the Government during the Committee Stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill earlier this week. Peers voted in favour of an amendment which would give Parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on the agreement the Prime Minister will later negotiate with the European Union.
Lord Heseltine, who voted in favour of the amendment and as a result was sacked as a Government advisor, made further waves in the press after he told a presenter on International Women’s Day that Theresa May has a ‘man-sized job to do’. The Labour Party was not free from criticism however, as Jess Philips MP hit out at her party for being ‘systematically sexist’ for never having a women in charge, announcing she would likely put herself forward for party leader in the future.
In other news, SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon provided a further threat to the Government, after proclaiming to the BBC that the autumn of 2018 would be the ‘common sense’ date for a second Scottish independence referendum. Sturgeon said that while no final decision has been made on whether or not a vote will be held, she insisted it was ‘highly likely’ due to last year’s Brexit vote.
On the benches
Tim Farron made a rooky mistake this week when he entered into a game of speed chess against UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott whilst answering questions from Victoria Derbyshire. Arnott is a former international player and Farron was left in need of a Knight in shining ivory as he was put in check-mate in under 60 seconds, proving Arnott to be the King. It’s said UKIP are looking into organising another game soon, with the principle move planned being Knight 1 to Farage.
Theresa May be a lizard
The scourge of fake news hit headlines once again this week with reports that the new Google Home device had been spreading stories that the Prime Minister may be a lizard. When asked who Theresa May was, the device told a user, ‘According to the Daily Star Theresa May is our new prime minister but already online users have exploded with rumours that she is actually a lizard in disguise.’ While it would be easy to assume that the mistake was due to David Ike being given a role at the company, Google insisted it was due to a faulty algorithm.
Box office Phil
Philip Hammond – often referred to as the ‘grey man’ – surprised many this week when he delivered a rather humorous Budget speech. Even Labour MPs couldn’t resist chuckling as the Chancellor, when making an announcement on driverless vehicles, quipped that the opposition ought to be familiar with the concept before adding ‘they don’t call it the last Labour Government for nothing’. When announcing additional revenue for the Scottish Parliament he paused, looked at the SNP benches, and gestured for them to cheer. Naturally, it didn’t come as Nationalist MPs sat stony faced whilst the rest of the House laughed at their expense.
Good week/Bad week – Budget special
Good week for: Parents on modest incomes from their own business, who are seeking to gain a PHD, frustrated by slow broadband and are burdened by having to drive themselves. This reasonably niche group of the British public will have had an excellent week given the announcements in Wednesday’s Budget.
Bad week for: Self employed, business owing, beer drinking, shareholding, smokers with overseas pensions and a buy-to-let property portfolio. As ever there are winners and losers in every Budget, but those fulfilling this criteria would be some of the only people to have had as bad a week as Philip Hammond, after breaking a key manifesto commitment in his first Budget. His quip that Norman Lamont also announced the last spring Budget 24 years ago before being sacked 10 weeks later might not seem so funny now…
‘Everyone in this House knows that we now face the most momentous peacetime decision of our time’ – Lord Heseltine speaking in support of an amendment that would give Parliament prior approval on a new deal agreed by Theresa May.
‘This amendment is taking us into deep water’ – Lord Forsyth of Drumlean responding to Lord Heseltine during the debate.
‘A ‘no deal’ scenario would open a Pandora’s box of economic consequences. The UK would face tariffs on 90 per cent of its EU exports by value and a raft of new regulatory hurdles. Let’s remember these barriers would hurt firms on both sides of the Channel’ – CBI President Paul Drechsler talking about the consequences of quitting the European Union without agreeing a trade deal for small businesses
Tweet of the Week
In Focus: A confident Chancellor delivers a cautious Budget
Philip Hammond began his budget speech with a joke about the fate of Norman Lamont, the last Chancellor to deliver a ‘last’ spring budget, who was sacked just 10 weeks later. It was a joke he wouldn’t have made if his own position was in any doubt.
Hammond is, after Theresa May, the most powerful and authoritative member of the Government. That was evident in his relaxed delivery of a confident, if largely dull, Budget.
Read more of our analysis here