The Chancellor, nicknamed ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ for his dry nature, oversaw a Budget that managed to be just about interesting enough for him to survive, whilst being dull enough to avoid any major surprises that blew up in his face. Post-budget, Conservative MPs were broadly supportive of the Chancellor and the likelihood that he will be moved from his current post has dropped significantly, despite his ongoing fractious relationship with Theresa May’s team.
The Stamp Duty cut in particular proved popular, showing the continuing Tory love affair with home ownership, along with wider housing measures, a sprinkling of cash for various areas (including the NHS) and limited tax rises other than a few anti-avoidance measures, (with nothing controversial having come to light so far) all of which helped the Budget’s reception. This was all paid for by abandoning yet further the idea of balancing the books – which now will happen some point close to 2030, assuming no intervening recession.
Hammond’s fairly successful Budget Day was all the more impressive given, as already noted, even the Government think we are now heading for the lowest period of growth since records began. While in the short term, Hammond seems unlikely to be moved from his post, the question will be whether or not pressure will build on him and the Conservative Party to act more radically given this deterioration in growth. Should this low growth future begin to materialise for Britain, Hammond may find that his own improved outlook may not last too long.