Yesterday’s disastrous ‘Mini-Budget’ from the Tory government saw Chris Philp described as ‘the idiot’s idiot’. You can’t say we weren’t warned, writes our Political Editor WALTER CRONXITE
There’s a reason Chris Philp is called “the Treasury’s No2”.
There’s also good reason people are now calling him “the idiot’s idiot”.
Yesterday morning, Philp, the millionaire property investor with the opaque businesses who is also Croydon South’s MP, must have thought he had reached the zenith of his political career so far.
There he was, on the government’s front bench in the House of Commons, grinning like the cat that had got the cream, alongside his newish boss, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, as he was about to deliver the Mini-Budget.
Friday, September 23 2022 will probably go down in history, after the disaster that is Brexit, as one of the days of greatest national self-harm in the history of this country.
Some on the left have described the measures announced by “Kamikaze” Kwarteng and his poodle Philp as “an unfiltered and shocking act of class war”.
Others, including Philp’s former Croydon Tory colleague “Lord” Gavin Barwell, have characterised it as financial idiocy – like having the economy’s handbrake on while you have your foot flat to the floor on the accelerator.
“When you listen to the Chancellor today, try to imagine how the Conservative Party would react if – with debt and interest payments at their current [high] level – a Labour government announced a package of tax cuts targeted at its core vote paid for by a big increase in borrowing,” Barwell tweeted.
And later he explained, “The government is slashing taxes for the rich which will increase inflation, forcing the Bank [of England] to push interest rates even higher to try to bring inflation down.”
Barwell called it reckless. More than once.
As the markets responded, badly, and the pound sterling plummeted, Philp’s plutocrat mates and Tory Party donors got richer still by rolling their financial dice in The City.
And all the while, Philp, finally on the front bench, grinned.
As had been widely trailed, Kwarteng, backed by Philp, the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Thick Lizzy Truss’s government, scrapped the cap on bankers’ bonuses, abolished the 45per cent additional rate of income tax, abandoned the planned rise in Corporation Tax, cut Stamp Duty and pledged to create 40 “investment zones”.
Yesterday’s statement means that someone earning £200,000 will be better off to the tune of £5,220 next year. Meanwhile, those on £20,000 a year will gain just £157.
Larry Summers, a former chief of the US Treasury, said that Philp, Kwarteng and Truss are “pursuing the worst macroeconomic policies of any major country in a long time”.
Respected economist Richard Murphy described the measures in the Mini-Budget as “insanity”.
Andrew Marr, in the New Statesman, wrote, “Quite why a tax cut for people earning more than £150,000 a year is not inflationary but pro-growth, while higher wages for workers doing essential jobs, and who are obliged to spend every penny in their local economies, is inflationary and harms growth, will baffle ordinary people marooned with ordinary ideological intelligences.”
It was a Budget in all-but-name. If they’d formally called it that, the Office for Budget Responsibility will have had to analyse the measures, and Philp’s mob certainly didn’t want any of that. It signalled the Tories trashing the economy, helping their mates to make a quick buck, before they scarper for the hills and leave it to someone else to clean up the mess.
Aside from the apparent pride Philp must have felt as he took his place on the front bench yesterday morning, what had already been a bad week for him – a dressing-down by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards had been followed by an evisceration over his involvement in tax-avoiding Pluto investment companies in the pages of Private Eye – was about to get a whole lot worse.
And as so often with Philp, the damage was self-inflicted.
At 10.17am Philp tweeted, “Great to see sterling strengthening on the back of the new UK Growth Plan.”
Moments later, the pound hit a 37-year low. One pound is today worth only $1.09. It was $1.12 when Kwarteng stood up to make his speech.
Apart from making Philp appear foolish, as someone who perhaps doesn’t really understand the currency markets – a bit of a handicap for the Chief Secretary to the Treasury – there’s also a chance that the Croydon MP may have acted in breach of strict ministerial rules over public statements about the state of the financial markets. In every case, it was a prime example of extremely poor judgement.
Then Philp had to go out and do the round of broadcast outlets, something which he has demonstrated repeatedly is not a particular strength (but then, what is?).
John Crace, the Grauniad’s sketch writer who had Philp’s card marked long ago, heard the Croydon South MP being interviewed yesterday evening on the BBC.
“Chris Philp on Radio 4 competing to be this week’s idiot’s idiot,” Crace wrote.
“How can he be No2 in the Treasury?”
It’s not as if the nation had not been warned. Someone dug out a cutting from the school magazine of St Olave’s Grammar from the early 1990s. There’s Philp’s grinning face above a caption: “A disaster waiting to happen.”
Such prescience in ones so young.
Thing is, many of Philp’s Croydon South constituents also twigged early on that their MP is in it for one thing only: himself. Philp’s “exemplary arse-kissing” and frequent car-crash interviews on radio and television have only served to confirm the shallowness of their MP.
And now he holds a senior position in the Truss government. As Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College, London, said yesterday as he surveyed the damage being caused, “They’ve completely given up on any pretence of credibility.”
Read more: ‘Rabbit hutch’ flats and the Chief Secretary: Philp’s conflicts
Read more: A good week and a bad week for Croydon’s Tory MP Philp
Read more: MP Philp: ‘Brown-nosing is first, second and third nature’
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