A successful politician conducts the song the rest of the country is singing.
Philip Hammond proved yet again today that he can barely hold a tune let alone recognise a popular hit.
This Spring Statement was an exercise in trying to play catch up.
There was additional money for the police to tackle knife crime – a rebuke to Theresa May who has claimed there is no direct link between police funding and levels of crime.
The Chancellor also promised some additional funding for housebuilding, though much of this was a re-packaging of previous announcements.
And there was a string of consultations on the environment presented as an example of how the Government understood the concerns of younger voters.
There was no great over-arching strategy.
Instead we got the equivalent of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) test by a middle manager fearful that he may see his company car downgraded if he fails to meet his sales targets.
He identified the areas voters are worried about and then did the bare minimum to buy off their concerns.
The £100milion for the police across England is a tenth of the amount cut from the Metropolitan Police alone.
As John McDonnell pointed out in his response, the pledge to build more environmentally-friendly homes comes nine years after the Tories scrapped Labour’s Green Homes guarantee.
The Chancellor used much of his statement to trumpet his government’s economic achievements.
He talked of the record number in work, rising wages and a five years of economic growth.
What he failed to mention was that the jobs boom is concentrated in London and the South East, that pay packets are still below where they were ten years ago, and that growth will be below 2% for each year until 2023-24.
Those seeking additional money for schools, local government and welfare were told to wait until the spending review in the summer.
If the Chancellor was coy about speaking to the public he was brutally blunt when talking to MPs.
The UK’s prosperity rested on agreeing a deal with the EU, he said.
Without an agreement there would be no “deal dividend,” he warned, before urging MPs to find a compromise around which the Commons could unite.
Some will see this as blackmail, others as a politician who is realistic about the consequences of Brexit.
You could also argue that if we crash out with a deal the case for ending austerity will be stronger than ever.
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