Autumn Statement 2016: Connect’s briefing
With the fallout from the EU Referendum and Conservative divisions playing out daily in the media and Parliament, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond is under pressure to use his first Autumn Statement to unite his Party and demonstrate that the Government has a solid plan for the UK’s future outside the EU.
Download the full Connect Autumn Statement briefing here.
The last occupant of Number 11, George Osborne proved himself to be a master of the political set pieces, although even he occasionally got it wrong, like the year he announced a “pasty tax”. Phillip Hammond is less of a showman than his predecessor, but he will still want to impress, perhaps by pulling a few rabbits out of his hat, to consolidate his position in the Treasury, and distract the media and MPs from the absence of a Government plan for Brexit.
With Labour still preoccupied with internal division, the Opposition that the Chancellor will be most concerned about is the rebellion brewing on the Government’s own backbenches. He should expect to feel the heat from behind him as the new “awkward squad” of pro-Remain Conservatives look for leverage in their pursuit of a “soft” Brexit.
There’s also the pressure from Number 10 to contend with. The new Prime Minister is demanding that her Government’s first big economic initiative includes measures to help “Jams”. Do you remember the “squeezed middle”? Well “jams” are the new political target audience. It stands for people who are “just about managing”. These are the often ‘swing’ voters whose living standards could be further eroded next year by rising inflation and the fall in sterling. To target “jams”, look out for a continued freeze in fuel duty, cuts to air passenger duty and further childcare subsidies.
Phillip Hammond has inherited a divided nation, with a plummeting pound and an uncertain future outside the European Union. Connect will be watching his first Government set piece as closely as ever – rarely has the Government’s plan been of more importance to the UK’s long-term future.
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