These are not normal times: the chancellor is unable to fund giveaways by raising taxes in the hope the public will forget them

In normal times, the first budget after a general election is a predictable affair. The chancellor of the exchequer stands up, conjures up the ghost of Sir Stafford Cripps, administers some pain and quickly moves on. In Westminster it is known as aligning the economic and political cycles. In plain English, it means getting the bad news out of the way early in order that there will be money to spare just before voters have to go to the polls again. Only rarely do governments deviate from this approach and when they do it rarely ends well.

But these are not normal times. It is simply not possible for Philip Hammond to raise taxes in the hope that given time the public will have forgotten all about it. This is a minority government that might not go the distance and, rather like Denis Healey in 1974, Hammond has to prepare for the possibility that there will be another election before too long.

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