Tue, 25 June 2024

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Rishi Sunak impresses as he delivers Gordon Brown's first Budget in 13 years

2 min read

Sajid Javid wore his familiar painted-on grin from the backbenches as Rishi Sunak delivered his first Budget.

But he must secretly have been cursing his successor as he doled out billions of pounds without any apparent worries about how it would be paid for.

Indeed, we haven't seen a giveaway Budget like it in years, certainly not since the days when Gordon Brown was master of all he surveyed at the Treasury.

In 2000, when the economy was roaring and the exchequer was awash with cash, the then Chancellor turned on the spending taps by announcing a 35% real terms increase in NHS funding.

Education was bunged an extra billion pounds, while there was also enough left in the kitty to chop a penny of the basic rate of income tax.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, however, Sunak's Budget  - with a promise to increase public spending by nearly £200bn over the next five years - was even more generous than that.

"This is the largest planned sustained giveaway at any fiscal event since Norman Lamont's ill-fated pre-election Budget in 1992," it said. "The loosening is similar in shape and modestly larger in scale to that in Gordon Brown's 2000 Budget, which - like this one - was dominated by public spending increases."

The comparisons to Labour's iron Chancellor might anger some Tory MPs, but they will delight Sunak and Boris Johnson, who wants to hang on to all those Labour seats he won at the election.

And which Chancellor doesn't want to stand at the Despatch Box and announce that he is going to end 10 years of morale-sapping austerity?

How he plans to spend for it is another matter, of course. Most of it is going on the nation's credit card, although Downing Street is at pains to stress that national debt as a proportion of GDP will still be lower in 10 years' time than it is now.

Sunak will be well aware that after Brown stood down as Chancellor in 2007, he made the move to 10 Downing Street. It's very early days in his political career, but if his ultimate ambition is to succeed his boss, he made a decent start today.

Engineering a Better World

The Engineering a Better World podcast series from The House magazine and the IET is back for series two! New host Jonn Elledge discusses with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

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