Hammond must face the future

First published on ProgressOnline

Tomorrow is the autumn statement. It is the first economic intervention by the new chancellor since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. But this is not the statement of a new government. This is the sixth year of this Tory government. What is unclear is if it is George Osborne’s apprentice or outrider that will be delivering the statement in the House of Commons at 12.30pm. There is little now that Philip Hammond can blame on the last Labour government. What he inherits is from Osborne, not Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling.

The sad reality is Britain goes into Brexit in a less than perfect state. The shock still to come to the economy means the fiscal framework will not be met pre, during nor post Article 50 being concluded. Britain’s ability to weather the storm to come is not what it should be. It might not all be of the Tories making, but they have hardly left us in the best place to go it alone.

Brexit need not be a disaster. But this requires the chancellor to face the country and the future, not throw red meat to his backbenchers and those in the United Kingdom Independence party. Most likely he will exacerbate the uncertainty rather than allay fears. We hope, for Labour voters and the country at large, this is not the case but currently fear the worse. Being boring is not the same as being a safe pair of hands.

Tomorrow is an opportunity. An opportunity to put Osbornomics behind us. An opportunity to invest in the Britain we need to see – an opportunity for all regions of the United Kingdom. Hammond has an example in Canada in Justin Trudeau and could do worse than re-examining the Darling plan for jobs and growth. With Ed Balls on the television all the time, it would be no bad thing to take a leaf out of his book and make a real attempt to rebalance the economy. Better still, he could take heed of the advice laid out by our very own Alison McGovern and her colleagues in their recent pamphlet for the Social Market Foundation: Moving On: A Labour approach to the post-Brexit economy.

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Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell

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