It’s been a pretty rough 24 hours for Philip Hammond. After losing the Whip last night, he had to sit and watch his successor as Chancellor deliver today’s spending round.
It won’t have escaped his notice that Sajid Javid – meticulous as ever – was effectively standing up not to praise Hammond but to bury him. It wasn’t an assault, in intent, tone or rhetoric, but nonetheless the implicit effect of the statement was to sprinkle earth over the ex-Chancellor’s approach.
As a former goth, he might in the right circumstances have appreciated the funereal drama. It didn’t look like it today.
Javid informed the House that he was able and willing to do what Hammond was either unable or unwilling to do – namely increase spending across the board, delivering at least the rate of inflation for every department. Although the Chancellor has delayed the full Spending Review, and thereby maintained his predecessor’s fiscal rules, the game certainly seemed to have changed.
A shift in policy might be uncomfortable but expected. But Javid, it turned out, was changing policy to deliver something that Hammond previously said was his aim: an end to austerity.
I asked at last year’s Conservative Party Conference what the definition of such a thing might be. Now we have Javid’s answer: “No department will be cut next year…that’s what I mean by the end of austerity.”
It’s starker and simpler than the principles laid out under Hammond and May. You might almost say it is the kind of clear message you’d need going into an election.
And there’s the final reason Hammond might have found the statement somewhat aggrieving to watch. It’s no fault of Javid’s, but while the Treasury was almost absent from the 2017 election campaign, it will evidently underpin the police and hospitals message that is set to be central to General Elecfion 2019.