Philip Hammond's dad jokes didn't distract us from the fact that his Budget is Tory austerity as usual

The Chancellor argued that rising living standards must be ‘at the heart of an economy that works for everyone’ – seemingly without realising that under his watch living standards continue to plummet

Click to follow

Philip Hammond has delivered a Budget speech that serves as the perfect example of fantasy politics. Today’s attempt to use rhetoric and dad jokes to hide the Tory neglect and mismanagement of our economy over the last seven years was a serious misstep.

We know what is happening – national debt has not fallen, or been eradicated, as was promised by the Tories in 2010, but has ballooned to £1.7 trillion. In the last seven years, the Tories have borrowed more than Labour did in thirteen. Real wages continue to fall and those in work have been failed by a Tory administration unable to return wages to the same level of 2008. The IFS has estimated that the average family will be £5,000 worse off by 2020 owing to sustained Tory economic failure. Nearly one million people rely on zero-hours contracts as the Government refuses to guarantee people security in work. And with one million people relying on food banks and emergency food supplies last year, the Chancellor’s slogans will be a bitter pill for ordinary people to swallow.

What was made clear in this Budget announcement is that whilst the Tory party claims to support entrepreneurship and hard-graft, they would rather slash corporation tax to 17 per cent and raise the money to fill the gap on the backs of the self-employed.

This tax rise on the self-employed was repeatedly described as “fair” by the Chancellor, but there is nothing fair about it at all. The self-employed already contribute towards the benefits of a social security system that they cannot enjoy, such as holiday pay and sick pay. It is the Labour Party, not the Conservatives, who are committed to reviewing the “woeful lack of rights” that the self-employed face.

And with no change to the top rate of tax, the Chancellor’s claim that the top one per cent are paying more tax than ever before suggests that they are simply earning even more than the average worker. After suggesting that he wanted “talent to be the only driver” it was clear that the Tories were moving to defend extreme wealth at the loss of real wealth-creators.

The Chancellor also argued that rising living standards must be “at the heart of an economy that works for everyone” – seemingly without realising that under his watch living standards continue to plummet. In the last few weeks the Resolution Foundation predicted an “unprecedented” outlook for falling living standards, with this Tory government engineering the biggest rise in inequality since Margaret Thatcher was in power.

Philip Hammond claims the Tories are ‘the party of the NHS’ during Budget 2017

It was also a bitter irony that the Chancellor disproportionately wielded the axe against women on International Women’s Day. It is important to point out that Hammond is offering a further welcomed £20m for the campaign opposing violence against women. However, the deepening of the Tory austerity mentality will hit women harder than ever before. Of those who earn too little to pay any tax, 65 per cent are women and so raising the personal allowance fails to help ease the burden. Tax and benefit changes since 2010 have hit women twice as hard as men, with women £1,000 worse off and men just £555 worse off.

The Tories have aimed their sights at the self-employed and the small business owners in this Budget. If you’re fortunate enough to have avoided the blame thus far, ask yourself one question: how long will it be until they come for me?