Philip Hammond used his budget speech today to fire what looked like a warning shot to fellow minister and Brexiteer Michael Gove. The remainer chancellor – known as ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ – has been at loggerheads with his cabinet colleagues over the way to handle Britain’s split from the European Union. And by doing so, could risk his job.
Gove, the environment secretary and infamous political backstabber, has been gunning for the chancellor’s job, according to colleagues. As the chancellor opened his budget speech today, he said: “This is the bit with the long, economicky words in it.”
Hammond has clearly been keeping an eye on the news, after his colleagues were anonymously quoted claiming Gove had been turning up to cabinet meetings using “economicky” words.
The chancellor also took a dig at the Scottish National Party (SNP) when he claimed he was “getting used to have my ear bent” by the 13 Tory SNP MPs, whose number was increased after the June election.
Theresa May was also mocked by Hammond, who requested that she bring him cough sweets “just in case” – weeks after she embarrassingly spluttered her way all the way through her Tory conference speech.
Hammond also announced that duty on cheap, high-strength alcohol will rise from 2019. However, duties on other ciders, wines, spirits and beer will be frozen.
“A bottle of whiskey will be £1.50 ($1.99) less in 2018 than if we had continued with Labour’s plans,” he said.
“And a pint, 12p (16c) cheaper.”
He also announced measures to promote maths teaching. “Don’t let anyone tell you I don’t know how to show the nation a good time,” he said.
On fuel, he said May’s Government will “once again cancel a fuel-duty rise for both petrol and diesel scheduled for April.”
For anyone trying to get on the increasingly steep housing ladder in Britain, Hammond announced a “temporary stamp-duty holiday for those who need to buy now, up to £300,000 ($398,000).”
He said: “To ensure this relief helps first-time buyers in high-price areas like London, it will also be available on the first £300,000 of properties up to £500,000 ($663,200).”
Commending the statement to the House, Hammond said: “We are at a turning point in our history and we resolve to look forwards not backwards.”
The Tory chancellor also hit out at Labour, saying: “Under Conservative-led government, the hard work of the British people is steadily cleaning up the mess left by Labour.” However, a furious Corbyn responded by slamming the record of the Tory government to a chorus of “shame” from his backbenchers.
“Pay is lower than it was in 2010 and wages are falling again. [This is] the slowest of the major economies in the G7. It is a record of failure, with more to come,” said Corbyn.
“Business investment revised down, people’s wages and living standards revised down. What sort of strong economy is that?
“In some parts of the country life expectancy is beginning to fall. The last Labour government lifted one million children out of poverty. Under this government, an extra one million will be in poverty at the end of this parliament.
“Falling pay, slow growth, rising poverty, and this is what the chancellor has the cheek to call a strong economy,” added the Labour leader.