Surrounded by critics, the chancellor will have little room for manoeuvre but is likely to be as upbeat as he thinks he can be

Philip Hammond faces an all but impossible job when he delivers his budget on Wednesday. Behind him will sit critics on the right and even to the left of the party, and he will have to deliver a fiscal message that sounds fresh after its key themes, housing, skills and a modest injection of resources for the NHS have already been briefed out.

It is a budget that many on his own side thought he would not give. During the general election campaign, when the assumption was that May would increase the Conservatives’ majority and embark on a brutal reshuffle, Hammond appeared anything but secure.

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