All budgets are political. In an election year, especially so. 

For the Government, the Chancellor decided to call back an old friend to help him out: Prudence. Whilst he and those on the green benches around him wanted to make a bigger bang, Prudence was whispering in his ear. Want even bigger tax cuts? Sorry, but Prudence says no. (But she might be persuadable in the years ahead if you ask her back).

Want a bigger boost to public spending? Of course you do, but Prudence says we don’t have the money. Want to please everyone with quick wins and gimmicks and borrow even more? She shook her head. 

And thus Jeremy Hunt turned caution into a virtue. When asked why his last cut to National Insurance hadn’t produced a bounce in the polls, he claimed that proved his point. He was doing the right thing for the long term good of the country, not for short term party populism. (Of course his hope is that Prudence does boost Conservative fortunes.)

Labour’s strategy is simple. Don’t frighten the horses. Don’t object to any move that might be popular. Don’t offer hostages to fortune. Accept the tax cuts, claim credit for those ideas that they thought of first. In essence, don’t disagree with much. But just don’t be the Tories. And cuddle up to Prudence too. 

So what happens next? The Conservatives will attempt two things. Firstly, a promise of jam tomorrow if they win. And the tomorrow after that, and the one after that. Secondly, to keep playing the “we have a plan; don’t let Labour ruin it” message. So expect much more of the “back to square one” rhetoric in the weeks to come. 

For Sir Keir, it is steady as she goes. Not being the Tories is enough. 

As for the budget, and its impact on the housing sector, many will view it as a missed opportunity. But the real battleground to which we should turn our attention is the General Election. And it could be as early as May. 

The industry needs clarity on what it wants from the next government. On planning, on brownfield, on incentives and burdens. And that does mean engaging with both the major UK parties, and the LibDems and SNP too. 

But it also means recognising that in many of the day to day areas of government policy, change is often slow. And aside from big ticket issues, most things go unchanged. It is Officials across Government who are just as important as politicians. Often more so. They write most of the rules and will right now be preparing recommendations for the next Government, whoever that is. And, in truth, if you want change, then you probably need to get Prudence on your side.  

Read our full analysis here.

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