Fit for the Future
It is the prerogative of the Chancellor to have any drink he chooses during the delivery of the Budget. Philip Hammond chose still water, accompanied by a pack of cough sweets thoughtfully supplied by the PM. Was this the portent of a dull budget? Well, the rhetoric was at least relatively exciting. In an opening address almost stolen from our own mission statement, Hammond acknowledged that, ‘The world is on the brink of a technological revolution which will change the way we work and live’, and that we need to jettison the ‘failed and irrelevant dogmas of the past’ and ‘choose the future’. So what of it? Well, the assessment of our near future (‘the bit with the long economicy words in it’) looks a little worse than it did, with OBR reporting dampened growth projections (1.4% in 2018). However, on a longer horizon, investment in tech was core to Hammond’s proposals, from infrastructure (5G, full fibre and AI) to the promotion of autonomous vehicles, (‘Sorry Jeremy Clarkson, but this is not the first time you’ve been snubbed by Hammond and May’). It was also a speech designed to address a perception of Conservative apathy to inequality; the Chancellor’s frequent refrain being, ‘A Conservative Government delivering… a fairer Britain’. In the end, it was also a careful balancing act between fiscal prudence and a modest relaxation of austerity, squeezing the most out of the headroom created over the past year.