Bernard Ingham: What is point of Spring Statement as Brexit crisis deepens unless Philip Hammond tightens austerity?

Sir Bernard Ingham has some trenchant advice for Chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of the Spring Statement.
Sir Bernard Ingham has some trenchant advice for Chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of the Spring Statement.
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WHAT a day – less than 24 hours after last night’s crucial Brexit vote – for Chancellor Philip Hammond to land himself with his Spring Statement. Serves him right.

First, it has been beyond me for 40 years – ever since I went to No 10 as Margaret Thatcher’s Press secretary – why on earth we need two financial statements a year.

One – the official Budget – is quite enough, bearing mind that the Chancellor can update the House of Commons whenever 
he wants.

Second, contrary to my consistent advice, all he has done is swap the old Spring Budget and the Autumn Statement about.

This classic tinkering does not change anything.

The Treasury will no doubt argue that the Chancellor would have been making a statement today whether or not the Commons had voted last night to leave the EU at the end of the month – or plumped, as not surprisingly it did, for prolonging the agony because the EU remains intransigent – or really because most of the rascals in Westminster are bent on defying the people’s will.

Blandly they will argue, since doom has long been lodged in their souls, we need to steady the ship.

It is a moot point which – kissing the EU goodbye or remaining within its embrace – would have created the greater uncertainty.

Moreover, the fundamental test today is whether the Tories have lost their Conservative marbles or whether – and hope springs eternal – they have recovered their firm grasp of economic essentials.

Let us be clear, there is not the slightest justification for the Government conceding austerity when employment has never been higher, even with retailing falling victim to internet buying, and obesity is the scourge of the land.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should be left to his fantasies.

He is so blinded by his class war Marxism that a Britain flowing with milk and honey and its streets paved with gold would be on its uppers.

In any case, who caused first the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition and then (subsequently) the Tories, to clamp down on spending?

Why, that economic genius who abolished boom and bust – one Gordon Brown – by leaving a mountainous £153bn budget deficit. That had to be cut in the interests of everyone in this land who is having to find around £46bn a year – £9bn more than we spend on defence – to service a soaring national debt.

That is now more than £2 trillion (thousand billion) and rising at the rate of £5,170 per second.

We have still not eliminated Brown’s budget deficit in nine years.

We cannot go on like this. And if the education system were infected with objective analysis instead of Lefty ideology, every youngster in the land would be demanding remedial action.

After all, they are going to have to fund the debt – not for much longer old codgers like me.

It follows that the Chancellor’s statement today will be judged by all sensible people not by what he gives away but by what he cuts.

I accept that, if any local councillors, NHS executives or chief constables read this column, they will now be in a state of acute hypertension. I make no apology for sending their blood pressure soaring.

They cannot be allowed to assume any longer that somehow they are special cases exempt from proper financial control.

Instead of spraying billions here and there, knowing very well that however many he chucks at them they will still want more, he needs to tell everybody straight: we have to start earning our keep in this country instead of mortgaging our future.

Once they are using their resources to meet the greatest public needs and we are earning more than we spend, they will share in the well-earned bounty.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor should say – and you will be able to knock me down with a feather if he does – “I am in the business of cuts, not charity”.

I shall forgive him much if he does five things:

1. Axe the ridiculous HS2 project before it runs away with the economy.

2. End the naive subsidies for wind and solar power, which won’t keep the lights on, and for mucky biomass (wood).

3. Make clear any future payments to the EU will depend entirely on their co-operation.

4. Require the overseas aid budget to show how British grants are directly helping the indigenous people and progressively reducing famine and disease.

5. Cut tax to bring benefit to every striver in the land.

Come on, old Spreadsheet. Frame yourself.