Good morning. At Westminster there’s an old saying about how budgets that are well received on the day tend to fall apart, while those that aren’t instantly applauded end up being seen as successful. If this were true, Rishi Sunak would be able to console himself with the knowledge that the spring statement was brilliant, because the immediate response has been unusually negative. Sunak’s surprise decision to announce a 1p cut in the basic rate of income tax for 2024 seemed intended to placate the right-wingers, in the Conservative party and the media, who have been demanding tax cuts increasingly aggressively. But even this audience is disappointed, as a quick glance at this morning’s papers will tell you.
Sunak has been doing a round of interviews this morning, and he has resorted to arguing that there is a limit to what he can do. He told BBC Breakfast:
I can’t make every problem go away, but where we can make a difference we want to …
I’ve always been honest; these are global challenges that we face.
We’re not alone in experiencing them, and I can’t, I wish I could – and it’s the hardest part about this job not being able to do everything that people would like you to do – but I can’t make every problem go away, but where we can make a difference we want to, and that’s what yesterday was about.
It is true that there is always a limit to what governments can do, but this argument is unlikely to impress voters, particularly with opposition parties highlighting policies that Sunak could be adopting, like a windfall tax on energy companies, that he has rejected.
The extent of the limitations of the spring statement have been highlighted by an analysis out this morning from the Resolution Foundation thinktank saying that, by not doing more for the poorest families, the proposals will see 1.3 million people – including half a million children – pushed below the poverty line next year. My colleague Mark Sweney has the story here.
I will post more from Sunak’s morning interview round shortly.
Here is the agenda for the day.
Morning: Boris Johnson is attending a meeting of Nato leaders in Brussels.
9am: The Resolution Foundation holds a briefing to present its analysis of the spring statement.
10.15am: And the Institute for Fiscal Studies holds a briefing to present its analyis of the statement.
11am: Peter Hebblethwaite, chief executive of P&O Ferries, gives evidence to the Commons transport committee about the sacking without notice of 800 of its workers last week. At 11.45am Robert Courts, the transport minister, and Paul Scully, the business minister, are giving evidence. Other witnesses giving evidence during the course of the morning include lawyers and union leaders.
11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
After 11.30am: MPs debate and vote on the changes to national insurance contribution thresholds announced yesterday.
12pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions from MSPs.
Mid afternoon: Johnson is expected to hold a press conference in Brussels.
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