Cummings Fights Javid Over March Budget in Feud Over Ideology
By TruePublica: Tensions are rising ahead of Mr Javid’s Budget on March 11 within Downing Street. Dominic Cummings wants control over the budget so he can push for lots of new spending and tax cuts in spite of more sober Treasury concerns about weak public finances and continuing Brexit uncertainty. Inside Downing Street, those close to the purse-strings know full well that the economy could plunge into recession, whilst Cummings throws caution to the wind to push ahead to revive the North and Midlands.
It is now well known that Cummings used his early weeks in Number 10 to push through a number of big-spending commitments in areas such as health and police before Mr Javid secured a victory for the Treasury and applied the spending brakes. Their relationship hit rock bottom before it even started.
The red-face-with-anger thermometer shot straight up ever since Cummings summarily sacked Javid’s adviser Sonia Khan in August without telling the chancellor first. The two men have been engaged in a power play battle for Boris Johnson’s attention ever since.
Johnson’s allies have a nickname for Sajid Javid: “Chino”, or “chancellor in name only.” It appears some emphasis is now placed on the last syllable: “He’s always saying no,” said one Tory official.
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George Parker at the FT reports that – “Ahead of the election Mr Javid, backed by Tory election chief Isaac Levido, persuaded Mr Johnson to adopt tight fiscal rules to draw up a dividing line with the UK’s opposition Labour party on economic responsibility, rather than trying to outspend leader Jeremy Corbyn. That promise to balance the day-to-day budget by 2022-23 is now imposing serious spending constraints on the government and on Mr Cummings’s plan to revive the north and Midlands. The battle lines for the Budget have been set.”
The FT goes on to report that the chancellor, for his part, sees his role as balancing the books on day-to-day spending as well as “levelling up” the country. Last Monday the Financial Times also reported how Britain’s public finances face a £12bn deficit by 2022-23 because of lower Bank of England growth forecasts.
Britain now has a national debt figure approaching £1.9 trillion. It equates to about 86 per cent of GDP and public borrowing is going to have to keep rising if Dominic Cummings has his way. Whichever way you look at it – there is no money saved, no magic money tree – just more debt. Last year to March 2019, the national debt was increased by over £25billion and it costs not far off £1billion a week to service its debt in interest payments only.
Cummings’s frustration with the chancellor has become increasingly obvious. Last month the Sunday Times reported one senior Tory as saying: “Number 10 and Dom are writing the Budget” without Javid.
Then there’s HS2. Last week it was reported that Mr Javid had decided to support Mr Johnson in backing the HS2 rail line, a project described by Mr Cummings as “a disaster zone.” Again, the reality here is that Johnson will likely announce the project is to continue. This is quite probably because the fallout of cancelling the project will be politically worse than continuing.
“To have Number 10 officials walking all over the chancellor sets a new low in the authority of a chancellor and the Treasury,” said John McDonnell, shadow chancellor.
There have since been suggestions from BuzzFeed that Javid had been “battling to save his job” ahead of the imminent cabinet reshuffle, albeit that Johnson does rate him.
The trick right now for the prime minister and chancellor is to attempt to put together a transformative Budget against a backdrop of slow growth, tight public finances and a feud that continues to boil between their two camps and different political ideologies.