With relations among the Cabinet already a little…. *ahem* … strained, the upcoming budget will do absolutely nothing to calm the mood. Some better than expected recent figures on the state of the deficit mean that Phillip Hammond has a bit more money to play with than we all feared. But more money means more Ministers asking for it to be spent in their departments. Inevitably, the PM and Chancellor will end up pleasing some but infuriating others, like a set of parents trying to distribute five cakes between ten highly competitive siblings.
This tension is already spilling onto the airwaves. Appearing on the Andrew Marr show, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid called for a large increase in borrowing to help solve the housing crisis, and suggested that such an announcement would come in the budget. The catch is that it seems Mr Javid didn’t run any of this by the man with the credit card. In an awkward moment for the Government, Philip Hammond flatly denied that Javid’s proposals were policy, when pressed on them in the Commons.
Labour have hit back at the Government for having “their arguments in public”, but really, the Opposition needn’t do anything except sit back with some popcorn and enjoy the show. The current Cabinet is one of the most divided we have seen in many years, and at pinch points like now, it feels inevitable that there will be more semi-public spats on the way. It doesn’t help that the man at the centre of it all, Mr. Hammond, is far from a unifying figure, particularly among the Cabinet’s Brexit-hungry contingent. Someone like Boris Johnson would privately relish the prospect of Hammond being sacked and, if the budget is seen as a failure, that may well be exactly what happens.
Expect fireworks this November.