A macro-political budget

It is a fascinating Budget, because it combines small print and big themes. In political terms, it is vital: possibly the most important budget  of the new Century. Philip Hammond knows that that his principal economic objective is self-evident: growth. There is a Micawberite margin, of around one percent. If the economy were to grow at two and a half percent a year, that might not sound like a large sum, but it would amount to almost £50 billion. This would allow for tax cuts, strides towards the goal of a balanced budget, spending increases, pay rises and feel-good all round. At one and a half percent, everything would be much tighter, with antagonism between those clamouring for scarce resources - and forget about balancing the budget. The Office of Budget Responsibilty (OBR) now estimates that growth will stutter along at around one point three percent. As a result, the balanced Budget has receded into the mists of the later 2020s.

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A Budget for Spread-sheets and Aspiration

A wholly unexpected development is about to astonish the world. This government is going to get something right.

Over the past few months, Philip Hammond has come under pressure, for three reasons. First - the least - important - it is known that he does not enjoy the Prime Minister's confidence. There is an easy retort to that: so what? Mrs May's confidence is a heavily devalued currency. It is of course true that public conflict between PM and Chancellor is no way to run a government. But little about this government is any way to run a government. The second follows on from all that. The Brexiters do not trust Mr Hammond. They accuse him of failing to make plans and provisions for Brexit - because he still hopes that it will not happen.

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John Major and Europe

The metaphors multiply. Some would have us believe that there is a stark choice. The ship of state, liberated at last, weighs anchor and sets course, the wind of freedom in its sails, for the open seas and distant horizons.   those who cast doubt on all that are clearly enemies of the people. Take your pick.

Well, I took mine years ago;  an “enemy of the people”, guilty as charged. I guess this affects whatever I say about John Major and the impact of the European debate on his seven-year premiership when the roots of today’s problems were dug in and watered.     

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Piquancy, confusion and - British - incoherence

An odd series of events have just unfolded in Riyadh. On 31st October, Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi Sunni national, flew to Riyadh to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - or MbS - and Thamer al-Sabhan, the Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs. Hariri also owns a troubled business in Saudi Arabia called Saudi Oger which is in recurrent difficulty.

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A Philippic. Time to Save the Future

So what is actually happening? At a superficial level, British politics seems to becoming steadily more febrile. Sexual tittle-tattle, challenges to the PM, hard Brexit/soft brexit/no-one appears to know what the devil is going on Brexit: everything is confusion and farce. We have to remind ourselves that this is a formidable country, and take comfort from Adam Smith's dictum: that there is a deal of ruin in a nation. But let us attempt to look below the surface and try to interpret deeper realities.

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