Philip Hammond fails to fire up the lobby with 'dull' pre-Budget spin

Written by Emilio Casalicchio on 22 November 2017 in Diary

The chancellor has been accused of being dull. Again.

Lobby hacks were decidedly underwhelmed when the Treasury’s initial Budget trail landed in their inboxes.

Devoid of any new announcements, it appeared to be little more than a tepid excerpt from Hammond’s Budget speech which was noticeably short of sparky soundbites.

But it did reveal that the Budget’s title would be ‘Building a Britain Fit For The Future’ – a phrase which is already being seen by-word for cuts programmes across the NHS, social care, local councils and even Transport for London.

Then, rather curiously, a second Treasury press release dropped, trailing a £200m announcement on teacher training and maths lessons.

According to the Telegraph, the second attempt at news was rushed out on the orders of Number 10, who were apparently fuming at Hammond’s lacklustre efforts. A Cabinet source told the paper it had been the “worst Budget build-up in history” and senior journalists did not disagree.

“Before he’s even said a word, it looks like yet another ‘Hamm-fisted’ Hammond gaffe,” was the damning verdict of Huff Post political editor Paul Waugh.

On BBC Newsnight, Nick Watt described the initial Treasury release as “one of the dullest press releases ever previewing the budget.”

And in a late-night blog post, Robert Peston made it clear he was not exactly excited about what the man behind the 2012 'Omnishambles' Budget would have to offer. The ITV political editor predicted: “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is the most dull budget of the 60 odd (if you include autumn statements) that it’s been my joy and privilege to cover.”

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