The chancellor claimed there were no unemployed people. That’s 1.4m reasons to do something bold about the catastrophic shortage of homes
The chancellor approaches his second budget on Wednesday from a position of vulnerability. A little like the polar bear on the thawing iceberg, but less cuddly, he is a lonely figure marooned in a shrinking world, the political climate set against him, fundamentally ill-equipped to change it. His unsuitability for the political times in which he finds himself was advertised again on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning, when he declared that there were no unemployed. No matter that he was trying to make a point about the historic capacity of a growing economy to absorb workers with outdated skills. His single task this week was to give substance to the Tory claim to be the party of the just-managing; instead he accidentally wrote 1.4m people who are looking for work out of the economic picture.
Whatever he now says on Wednesday, those four words, “there are no unemployed”, will hang in the air. They give the lie to the claim that his is a government that intends to change people’s lives for the better. They will – despite the confidence in the future that they imply – empower his critics among the hardline Brexiters who accuse him of broadcasting gloom; and they will reinforce the lack of confidence in Fiscal Phil that emanates from No 10, where the spring budget shambles that led to a U-turn over national insurance contributions will not have been forgotten. This is a chancellor who can’t see the politics in the Treasury spreadsheet.