Budget expectations, prophecies, commentary and coverage plans have been thrown into disarray after the shock departure of Sajid Javid.
With just a month to go until the March 11 date that had been set for this current government’s first Budget, the announcement that Mr Javid had resigned his post as chancellor of the exchequer sent commentators scrabbling around to see what might change from the original drafts.
The date is still in the diaries, and the Treasury has confirmed it is still going ahead, but increasing speculation suggests that Mr Javid’s young successor might be giving a Budget that is decidedly different from the original.
Already the pre-election promise to ‘end austerity’ has been rescinded. The pledge not to over-borrow has also been turned on its head, with Westminster saying it doesn’t want to turn off the spending taps – hinting that the borrowing limits set out by Mr Javid’s pre-election plan will also be scrapped.
Mr Javid had promised: “With this Budget we will unleash Britain’s potential – uniting our great country, opening a new chapter for our economy and ushering in a decade of renewal.”
That promise, too, might end up exiting with Mr Javid.
It doesn’t bode well that Mr Javid’s departure came, as reports have stated, because of orders by Number 10 to ‘sack all of his advisers’ – the last straw for the former chancellor, who had already reportedly clashed with Dominic Cummings, special adviser to the prime minister, over fiscal restraint.
Whether newcomer Rishi Sunak, chief secretary to the Treasury, will be able to overcome the drama (and the pressure from Number 10 to allow the prime minister closer control over economic plans) is still uncertain.
What is certain however is that unless central government stops playing silly beggars with the nation’s finances, any Budget we have this year is likely to be one of the most controversial Budgets we have seen for many years.