Philip Hammond delivers grim economic news… and ‘something akin to jokes’
Watch: The chancellor took aim at both Boris Johnson and John McDonnell.
Philip Hammond today revealed that Britain's economy is to slow down dramatically and the government will be forced to borrow an extra £122bn in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Presenting the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecasts, the chancellor said borrowing would hit £68.2bn this year and £59bn next year, compared with the March forecast of £55.5bn and £38.8bn.
The OBR said the referendum result meant potential growth in the current Parliament would be 2.4 percentage points lower than forecast in March. Government finances are forecast to be £122bn worse off than in the spring.
Hammond was presenting his first autumn statement. It will also be his last autumn statement after he rather theatrically told the chamber:
“I have one further announcement to make. This is my first autumn statement as chancellor. After careful consideration and detailed discussion with the prime minister I have decided that it will also be my last.
“Mr Speaker, I am abolishing the autumn statement!”
Hammond also made fun of Boris Johnson for failing to become leader of the Conservative Party and he took a swipe at shadow chancellor John McDonnell, suggesting a “second career” awaited him on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Senior commentators suggested that Hammond’s humour might have helped to mask the bad news that he was delivering.
Political pundit and Total Politics columnist Steve Richards tweeted: “I like Hammond's delivery.. unexpectedly punchy and some wit… humour is an underused weapon in politics (though Osborne used it well).”
Weber Shandwick head of public affairs Joey Jones said: “Philip Hammond played a bad hand well. We knew the numbers from the Office for Budget Responsibility on growth and borrowing would be bad – they really were.
“But he stilled the House with a calm and authoritative performance, peppered with something akin to jokes.”