Archive for the 'Budget' Category


Remember five months ago when Hammond thought he was unsackable?

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

After his budget U-turn he’s now joint 2nd favourite to be next cabinet minister out

Back in October the Telegraph’s James Kirkup wrote how the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond believed that he was in a uniquely strong position in the cabinet

Mr Hammond is, to almost everyone’s surprise, the most interesting man in the Cabinet. Colleagues say that he calculates that he is, for now anyway, unsackable, and so he has the latitude to challenge Mrs May in a way others do not.

More sympathetic to business and the argument for the single market than the PM, Mr Hammond could well emerge as Britain’s real opposition leader when Britain’s Brexit debate is played out inside the Conservative Party…”

How things look differently today following the roasting he has had in the media after his U-turn on National Insurance contributions for the self-employed.

It was widely commented on after last week’s budget that he was treading on thin ice proposing a move that appeared to be in direct contradiction to a Conservative manifesto election pledge from 2015.

The crazy thing is that in revenue terms this proposed change was not going to add up to all that much.

As ever in these circumstances when a minister looks in trouble the bookies try to tempt punters into having a bet. Hammond is now second favourite at 6/1 with Ladbrokes to be the next cabinet minister out. William Hill also have a market up making it 5/2 that he won’t remain Chancellor to out of this Parliament.

I have learnt to my cost in the past that these bets are easy to get wrong and I’m giving this one a miss for now.

Mike Smithson


Now betting opens on whether the self employed NI increase will happen

Friday, March 10th, 2017

William Hill have opened a market on the Chancellor’s controversial National Insurance increase for the self-employed – and are offering odds of 6/4 (40% chance of happening) that the new NIC rise WILL be implemented this year – and 1/ 2 that it will NOT be.

‘The adverse reaction to this issue appears to have taken Mr Hammond and Mrs May by surprise and there is speculation that it could be delayed and/or scrapped’ said Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.

However, Hills do not believe that Philip Hammond’s future in the role is under threat and offer odds of 1/6 that he will still be Chancellor when the next General Election takes place, 7/2 that he wil not be.

My view is that this is not going to happen. There have been enough signs that a U-turn is being looked at.

Mike Smithson


Maybe next time the Tories will have to emulate the GE2015 EdStone to show they’ll honour manifesto commitments

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

OmNICshambles, like the LDs tuition fees pledge, will be remembered

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has been in full defensive mode as he has sought to fight off the criticism that his National Insurance changes for the self-employed are in breach of a GE2015 Conservative manifesto pledge.

His responses that this just applied to one form of NIC charges really didn’t resonate and he’d be well advised to find another way of dealing with the attacks.

What is surprising is that this wasn’t anticipated. The way the Tories used the threat of increased National Insurance contributions against LAB at the last election is all on the record and cannot easily be airbrushed out.

The problem at the next election is that the blue team is going to be pressed even further on any manifesto commitments that they make and this one will be thrown back at them.

Maybe there was something in Ed Miliband headstone plan that was, as we can all record, going to be placed in the garden at 10 Downing Street, as a way of saying that they’ll keep their promises.

One thing’s for sure Cameron/Osborne would not have made this mistake.

With the second BREXIT bill defeat in the Lords, the sacking of Michael Heseltine and the reception the budget has got this has probably been the worst week of Theresa May’s government.

Mike Smithson


If the opposition leader wasn’t so feeble May/Hammond would find it harder to ignore specific manifesto commitments

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The 2017 version of the pasty tax?

At GE2015, less than two years ago, the Conservative made a very specific pledge – if elected there would be no increase in VAT, National Insurance Contributions or income tax.

Well today’s big budget announcement from the Chancellor that the self-employed are going to see the NI contributions going up is going to be a hard one to explain and we’ve already seen the start of a storm brewing. One section of the working population who’ll be affected are freelance journalists and they are going to remember.

The Spectator’s main story on the budget is headed “Biggest loser from this Budget? The credibility of Tory tax promises”.

Already UKIP have seen an opportunity and their most capable figure Suzanne Evans has already started the attacks.

Fortunately for the blue team they face an official opposition led by the hapless Corbyn who barely mentioned the NI increases in his tedious response.

Very specific manifesto pledges have to be treated with great caution. At the very least Hammond needed to have made a convincing case as to the reason which he failed to do.

A mistake which won’t easily go away.

Mike Smithson


Why I am not playing budget bingo this year

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The novelty of this year’s budget, which takes place after PMQs at about 1245, is that George Osborne is neither Chancellor nor shadow chancellor – the first time this has happened since 2005.

So few people have held the shadow or actual position that you have to go back nearly a quarter of a century to find a time when Osborne or Brown was neither chancellor or shadow chancellor.

Philip Hammond is very much an unknown and we have little to refer to when the bookies put up their bingo markets. Here you look at the list and make a guess whether a specified word or phrase will be spoken.

I do have a small spread bet on the length of the speech. I’m on under 56.5 minutes.

Mike Smithson


Copeland and Stoke Central – the final push

Monday, February 20th, 2017

A round up of some of the literature

Just 3 days left with so much hanging in the balance

Although it’s not unusual for more than one Westminster by-election to be held on the same day I cannot recall an occasion similar to that which we will see on Thursday when the main opposition party is struggling to hang on to two seats.

Whatever the outcomes Copeland and Stoke Central will have a huge impact on domestic politics.

If LAB loses one or even both that will put renewed pressure on Corbyn. The polls have been awful and the by-elections will reinforce that in a huge way.

For UKIP Stoke Central is massive test for both the party and its new leader. The whole point of Paul Nuttall, we were told, was that he would be in a position to take UKIP’s fight into Labour heartlands particularly those where LEAVE did very well on June 23rd last year. Stoke appears to fit the bill entirely. For a large period of the campaign the betting has had Nuttall as odds-on favourite and to come away from the fight with nothing would be a major blow. If he fails could that create leadership issues once again.

For the Tories Copeland offers an extraordinary opportunity to take a seat from Labour while they are in government. The party is obviously feeling confident or else Theresa May would have kept well away. Throughout the betting has had CON as a tight odds-on favourite.

Finally the rejuvenated traditional by-election kings, the LDs, have got to come out of Thursday with something to maintain the fightback narrative. Winning either looks a massive challenge but a big increase in vote should suffice.

Mike Smithson


Theresa May’s big speech – a round up of reaction

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017


Cameron’s first policy resignation: IDS quits

Friday, March 18th, 2016


But it’s Osborne in the firing line

There are two easy assumptions that need dismissing about IDS’s resignation yesterday. Firstly, this is not a power gambit on Duncan Smith’s part; and secondly, his going is not to do with Europe.

The two in fact tie together. There could be – and perhaps already is – an explanation that runs thus: IDS has really quit because he is upset by how the Remain side is conducting the European debate; in leaving he is free to directly criticise the prime minister for his at best difficult-to-substantiate assertions; by taking dramatic action he places himself at the forefront of the campaign and, should Leave win, at the front of the race to be next Tory leader.

The problem with that interpretation is that it doesn’t fit the facts. If IDS had wanted to do maximum damage to Cameron and Osborne – and, by extension, to Remain – he would have quit on Budget Day itself, or in fact just about any time other than a Friday evening when MPs are away from Westminster and newspapers have least time to react for tomorrow (albeit that the Sundays get a good run).

Similarly, if it was about Europe then he would have said so. The two letters that stand out by their omission from Duncan Smith’s resignation letter are ‘EU’. No doubt he will feel freer to criticise Remain’s ‘project fear’ tactics now, but that will be very much a secondary consequence. If he had quit over Europe (or as a power play) then it would have been the PM in his sights. 

But it’s not. Instead, it’s George Osborne who takes the full force of Duncan Smith’s ire; Osborne’s political gaming, his rushed Budget preparations, his short-termist approach and his willingness to risk effectiveness tomorrow for acclaim today. Also – one assumes – because Osborne tried to arrange it so that IDS would take the flak for the chancellor’s decisions.

It is easy to over analyse this resignation, particularly for those fond of seeing politics in terms of personalities scrabbling up the greasy pole. IDS has been there, done that and it turned out badly; he cannot have any ambition left on that score. No, for all the criticisms of Duncan Smith over the years, one that cannot be reasonably levelled at him is deceitfulness; he has always been plain about where he stands. There is no reason to believe any different now.

Nor do I believe those who claim that he jumped before he would be pushed post-referendum. While there may well be a reshuffle after the referendum, unless Remain wins by a country mile then the PM is unlikely to want to risk further antagonising the Eurosceptic wing of his party by offering up martyrs who’d been doing a decent job. Such talk also misses the point that no sensible leader ever lets on about a reshuffle before it happens: rumours are just that.

But a reshuffle there will now have to be and one that Cameron hadn’t planned. If he is thinking about another change after the referendum then he’d need to keep this weekend’s as pared down as possible (indeed, if there is a sizable move-around in the next few days, that pretty much rules out a planned reshuffle this year).

The audacious move would be to offer the job to Boris. Some might argue that it’d be slotting a round peg into a complex polygonal hole. Perhaps. But it would avoid knock-on effects while simultaneously bringing a degree of control over Boris.

More likely is a promotion from a Minister of State and there, Priti Patel is the obvious candidate being already within the department. Holders of HenryG’s 50/1 tip of her as the next Conservative leader from back in 2011 would no doubt welcome the appointment.

Heading the other way on the scales of fate is the chancellor. Duncan Smith’s letter is deeply damaging to him because it lays bare an unfair and excessively calculating approach to politics that is unattractive to public and politicians alike. After several months when he’s underperformed in his jobs, there’ll be few who’d go out on a limb to offer him unconditional support. The question is whether Cameron will be one of those few. He has been very loyal to his colleagues in the past but it is possible to be loyal to a fault.

David Herdson