The Guardian view on Philip Hammond: he will take far more than he gives | Editorial

Photo of The Guardian view on Philip Hammond: he will take far more than he gives | Editorial

The chancellor unveils his choicest jams for the Jams, but they will be dwarfed by his giant cuts

On any other day, the raft of measures announced by Philip Hammond just after midnight would not be a mere teaser for this afternoon’s autumn statement: they would be the main event itself. A ban on letting-agent fees; an above-inflation jump in the minimum wage; an extra billion for new homes; more cash for families claiming universal credit: any one of these policies would be natural fodder for the front page. Yet here they are all bundled together on one Treasury press release with a few more stocking-fillers for good measure. These follow briefings about an extra billion for new roads, more money for research and development and the latest attempt to roll out superfast broadband. One may wonder how Mr Hammond plans to surprise MPs this afternoon, beyond the revelation of an even bigger black hole in the public finances – caused by Britain leaving the EU, the economy growing slower and tax receipts plummeting. But those aren’t the sort of headlines any chancellor would relish.

Nevertheless, this is an exceptional flow of news, especially considering that it comes from a chancellor who claims to dislike big autumn statements. So much for the new politics. In 1947, then-chancellor Hugh Dalton was heading into the chamber to deliver his budget when he blurted out details to an evening paper reporter, on the assumption (it is often said) that it was too late to go to press. The list – “No more on tobacco; a penny on beer; something on dogs and pools but not on horses” and so on – was being sold on the streets 20 minutes before Mr Dalton stood up to speak. Thus did Clement Attlee lose his chancellor. What was once a resigning matter is now considered news management.

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