The budget is the single most important economic statement each year. The budget is begun by the holding up, outside 10 Downing Street, of the iconic red briefcase by the chancellor, who proceeds to parliament, and delivers the speech announcing any changes to economic policy. The speech usually lasts about an hour, and the leader of the opposition gets the first chance to respond.
Much of the narrative leading up to the budget was based around the Conservative Party’s struggles with appealing to young people. Higher youth turnout was considered a major factor in the shock election result in June (Labour won 66% of 18 to 19-year-olds, and 62% of 20 to 24-year-olds). As such, it was widely expected that the budget would contain a handout or two for the younger generation.
The reality was… underwhelming. Among the flagship policies to fight for the votes of young people included the abolition of stamp duty on houses up to £300,000 and the extension of the 16 to 25 railcard to 26 to 30-year-olds.
The stamp duty change is likely to simply inflate the housing market, not that young people were awash with affordable housing to begin with, and as such will probably shore up the Conservative vote among homeowners more than appeal to those trying to get on the property ladder.
The railcard, on the other hand, was coupled with an increase in the price of railway season tickets by 3.6%, a figure that amounts to several hundred pounds.
There was an announcement of £3bn being set aside for Brexit preparations, and of £44bn set aside for capital funding for houses, a larger than expected figure (though still less than the number requested by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid).
The minimum wage and tax-free allowance (the amount of one’s salary that is tax-exempt) saw modest increases, and £28m was set aside for regeneration after the Grenfell Tower disaster in Kensington and Chelsea.
Hammond’s rather miserly approach to spending results from his refusal to abandon the spending targets he set last year. However the Chancellor avoided any major embarrassment like the U-turn he made earlier this year on a proposed increase in national insurance. For a Conservative Party in disarray, no news is better than bad news.
Serial bankruptee, alleged sexual harasser, and President of the United States, Donald Trump has courted controversy once again, retweeting a series of clips from the far-right political party Britain First, whose mantra was chanted by the terrorist Thomas Mair before the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox last year. The clips, depicting apparent violence by Muslim individuals, were widely debunked as misleading, to which the US press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded by insisting that it didn’t matter if the video was fake, as “the threat is real.” The Prime Minister condemned the president, saying it was “the wrong thing to do.”
The UK government has finally acquiesced to paying a £50bn divorce bill to the EU due to its existing liabilities. The government hopes that the bill will help to smooth trade proceedings, which the EU had refused to engage with until the bill was agreed, however it is already meeting considerable opposition from backbench Tory Brexiteers.
First Secretary of State Damian Green stood in for Theresa May this week during Prime Minister’s Questions, as the PM was on a scheduled trip to Jordan. He did battle with the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry at the dispatch box, who probed him uncomfortably on his sexual harassment allegations, though later insisted she was “not going there.”
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