Today’s spending round was unworthy of the name. It was, in reality, little more than a cynical pre-election stunt drawn up in the hope that taxpayers will fall for the mafiosi at the top of the British government bribing them with their own money.
Usually I’d try and offer some financial and economic analysis of the announcement; looking at what the chancellor was trying to do with this or that, what they missed, what the implications were for the public finances, the economy, and so on.
With this, hurried out before the Office for Budgetary Responsibility had the chance to downgrade its economic forecasts in response to the latest fairly dreadful data, there’s really no point.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Don Dominic Cummings and his under boss Don Boris Johnson looked at the polling data, marked the areas of concern to voters, and sent Sajid Javid out to deliver it to a parliament the pair hold in contempt.
It’s a plan, like most of the ones they’ve cooked up, that didn’t work out too well.
No one would ever pretend Javid was a gifted orator.
But his stilted performance on his first big event was so bad it made his predecessor “Spreadsheet Phil” Hammond look like the charismatic god of numbers by comparison.
This was Stumbling Saj at his worst.
He’d been told to let loose the billions and you might have thought that spraying great chunks of other people’s around would have been a novel and exciting experience for a former banker turned Tory chancellor.
Here’s some billions for education. Here’s some for social care. Here’s some for defence. Veterans, rough sleepers, youth services, we love all of you. You can have some cash too.
Yet despite being ordered to cough up that trolley full of sweets, Javid looked for all the world as if he was the bloke in the corner with no mates at the accountants annual ball.
In twenty years of watching these things I can honestly say I have never seen a worse performance. Dismal doesn’t even begin to describe it.
It took him five minutes or so just to get to the subject of spending. First we had to listen to a monotone diatribe saying exactly the same thing as Boris Johnson’s been saying about Brexit, for which read: telling the same lies.
Speaker John Bercow had to intervene twice to tell him to get on with the business in hand.
He nonetheless ploughed on with desperate stuff about how awesome the UK economy is when in actuality it shrank in the second quarter and is looking more likely to fall into a full-scale Brexit recession courtesy of him and his colleagues by the day.
When he finally got around to some actual spending pledges, he drew ironic cheers.
Even they died when the detail finally emerged.
It was half arsed even as bribes go, just some numbers plucked out of the air in an attempt to show the public that the Tory party has been reshaped in Don Dominic’s image and will now pretend it cares about the little guy as well as Brexit.
Except it doesn’t. John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, summed it up when he described the spending review as “a missed opportunity to turn around years of cuts to the crucial budgets that support the NHS and the patients who depend on it”. It wasn’t just health.
John McDonnell picked up that theme. Austerity, he correctly stated, was a choice not a necessity and a new chancellor claiming to end it delivered nothing more than a “compendium of meaningless platitudes”. They will all of them be under threat in the event of a no-deal Brexit anyway, on which he wasted yet another £2bn.
McDonnell wasn’t at his best but he didn’t need to be. A half dead rabbit would have looked good by comparison to Javid.
But perhaps the chancellor’s lack of conviction shouldn’t come as a great surprise. It was noted that he was deprived of a media guru when Don Dominic had his aide Sonia Khan removed from Downing Street by a gun toting copper. But he didn’t really need one. He is himself little more than a PR man for his bosses
He’d better step up his game as regards to that or he’ll find that he’s next out of the building, perhaps in the gun toting company of one of the new officers Johnson wants to hire to polish up his law and order credentials.