These day these politics can feel like you need a crystal ball to predict it.
However, as the definitive provider of political intelligence, at DeHavilland we love nothing more than to read the runes ahead of a setpiece event. For Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first and last Spring Budget, we decided to do something a little bit different.
Last week, we hosted a special Spring Budget Webinar to assess what we expected to hear from Mr Hammond, with insights and opinions from an expert political and public affairs panel.
As Shadow City Minister, Jonathan Reynolds is Labour’s frontbench spokesperson on financial services, a sector looking for reassurance as the process of leaving the European Union begins.
Conservative MP Alan Mak is notable for many appearances in the Commons chamber championing causes close to his heart, including his new APPG for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Finally, the Institute of Directors’ Deputy Policy Director Andy Silvester represents an organisation whose members challenged the Treasury to deliver on business rates and reducing the burden of regulation.
Unsurprising, Mr Reynolds was heavily critical of the Government’s failure to address the issue of funding in health and social care. Anticipating the additional £2bn over three years the Chancellor produced in the Budget Statement, he urged the Treasury go further in giving the system the money it needed. The Shadow Treasury Minister did not want see the can kicked further down the road with yet another commission on long-term reform, demanding a national solution that could spread the costs over all areas.
The main mission of the Spring Budget for Mr Mak was to place the country in a strong position ahead of Brexit. He also used the opportunity to call on the Chancellor to support causes close to his heart, specifically the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, envisaged as a means of unleashing the full potential of the digital age.
There could be a “little bit of Hollywood” from the man many had dubbed “Box Office Phil” with fairytale economic forecasts, Mr Silvester argued. His view heralded the broadly positive figures the Chancellor would unveil the following day, showing favourable growth and employment rates.
In an increasingly favourable climate, businesses wanted to see increases in the Annual Investment Allowance to encourage greater private sector investment, the IoD Deputy Policy Director said.
Mr Reynolds conceded that the economic “apocalypse” many had predicted post-Brexit had not materialised, but insisted the UK still faced considerable challenges. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s projection that the deficit would be eliminated by 2025, a decade later than pledged in 2010, was one example of this lingering difficulty.
Inevitably, business rates became a battleground in the debate, with Mr Mak foreshadowing the additional rates relief Mr Hammond would announce. Some announcements, however, could still come out of left field, and none of the panellists expected the Chancellor to test the Conservative tax lock manifesto pledge by raising National Insurance contributions for the self-employed.
Reflecting on the advent of the final Spring Budget, Mr Silvester joked that the move from two financial statements to one would not necessarily mean the Chancellor could get away with meeting fewer lobbyists.
Our panel concluded by agreeing that the greatest challenge for Philip Hammond would not be defending the contents of his Red Box, but the fallout from the Article 50 process over the coming months and years.
Spring budgets may officially be a thing of the past, but Brexit is about to begin.
Watch the discussion now
Mike Indian is Senior Political Analyst and a member of DeHavilland’s Editorial team, leading on infrastructure and Scottish affairs. He leads on DeHavilland's dynamic content, specifically videos and podcasts, and regularly appears in the media as a political commentator. A graduate of Lancaster University, he has worked as a freelance journalist.