Week’s a long time in politics

Chancellor Philip Hammond departs 11 Downing Street, London, as he heads to the Palace of Westminster for the delivery of the Budget statement. Picture by Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Chancellor Philip Hammond departs 11 Downing Street, London, as he heads to the Palace of Westminster for the delivery of the Budget statement. Picture by Victoria Jones/PA Wire
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Chancellor Philip Hammond surprised many with his funny jokes in presenting last week’s budget. But Hammond’s humour soon became hubris.

That he forgot his party’s solemn promises – made four times in its 2015 manifesto – not to increase national insurance made him a target for the self-employed and normally supportive tabloids.

He and his colleagues worsened things by trying to kid us that they had not broken their promises, although the pledges are as plain as a pikestaff.

You can argue that some change is necessary.

But you cannot pull the wool over people’s eyes.

Self-employed people – who are a growing part of our economy – have historically paid lower national insurance because they have not enjoyed the same benefits as those who pay taxes and national insurance at source.

And the state has sought to provide incentives to set up businesses that employ people and inject dynamism into the economy.

True, self-employed people will benefit from the new state pension so there is an argument for reducing the gap between the rates of national insurance. But that cannot be done like this.

Furthermore, the raid on the self-employed is accompanied by a needless hike in the inheritance tax threshold, which means that there is no tax on properties of up to a million pounds.

The contrast between tax breaks for the wealthy and punishing sole traders is no laughing matter.

Originally I urged Spreadsheet Phil to return to the drawing board. His abrupt u-turn confirms a week is surely a long time in politics.