Difficult times for the master tactician
Not since the ‘omni-shambles’ Budget of 2012 has the Chancellor felt the pressure in the aftermath of a Budget announcement. In a highly unconventional move, the Chancellor has been sidelined and his welfare proposals scrapped – all triggered by the resignation of former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The new Secretary Stephen Crabb and David Cameron were left to manage the retreat on the welfare proposals in Parliament yesterday.
But the Chancellor is due back in the Chamber to man his defence ahead of the vote to approve his Budget. He is set to reaffirm his commitment to “compassionate Conservatism” whilst squaring that with fiscal responsibility. He is now left with a £4.4bn gap in his Budget following the u-turn and it will not be easy to plug the sizeable sum as other welfare pots such as pensions are effectively ring-fenced. With a commitment to reduce benefits by £12bn a year until 2020, it is a key decision but one that has ultimately been kicked into the long grass of the Autumn Statement. The Chancellor has gone from strength to strength in recent years but the unique challenges of this year including the referendum, an economy slowing down and a leadership struggle ratcheting up, present difficult times ahead, even for the master tactician himself.