Budget 2020

Portrait of the week: Panic buying, Budget announcements and farewell to Harry and Meghan

Home At the beginning of the week 319 people in the United Kingdom had been found to be suffering from the coronavirus Covid-19, with five deaths by Monday evening; by the next day there were another 54 cases and another death. Of the total, 91 were in London. Testing was extended to anyone hospitalised with a respiratory tract infection. Nadine Dorries, a health minister, caught the virus. Shares in London fell by 7.8 per cent on Monday, like those in other European exchanges, then bounced back a little. Supermarkets were allowed to receive deliveries in the dead of night to avoid shortages. There was a curious tendency to panic-buy lavatory

How British science can flourish after Brexit

I’m a Texan as well as a physicist so I hope it doesn’t sound boosterish if I say that no nation has contributed more to basic science than Britain. No other country has such an uncanny aptitude for it. I’m not sure what combination of poetry and pragmatism makes this possible, but I don’t need to go far to find evidence. A few streets from where I work in Mayfair lies the Royal Institution, which earned more Nobel prizes in science than all of Russia. Or consider Newton, Darwin, Faraday, Maxwell, Rutherford, Hardy, Dirac, Fleming, Crick, Higgs, Hawking and Wiles. All are bywords for British originality. They have something else

Martin Vander Weyer

The antidote to virus panic is in the hands of entrepreneurs

‘It’s a ghost town,’ said the officer manning the body scanner at Manchester airport — Manchester, New Hampshire, that is, a city of some 112,000 citizens. I don’t know how many of them would normally be passing through its departure hall on a Sunday morning, but today there are no more than 50, plus me and a bottle of hand sanitiser to remind us why it’s so quiet. A spokesman for the global airline industry says carriers collectively foresee worst-case revenue shortfalls of $113 billion as a result of virus fears and travel restrictions, similar to what hit them after the 2008 financial crash. Flybe, already a sickly patient, is

Rishi Sunak’s barmy Budget

He began with a touch of statesmanlike solemnity about the pandemic. ‘The British people may be worried but they are not daunted. We will protect this country and our people. We will rise to this challenge.’ This was Rishi Sunak delivering his first budget. Many viewers will not have seen him give a sustained performance before. He’s young, lean, smiley, mild-mannered. His thick rug of hair is worn with a schoolboy’s side-parting. Lots of teeth, oddly big ears. An ideal son-in-law type. But this isn’t the right look for a chancellor who should either resemble a mortician, (Stafford Cripps), or a voluptuary, (Nigel Lawson). His vocal delivery has some strangely

The great Tory Budget giveaway

It’s always tempting for governments to respond to economic trouble with a debt-fuelled spending splurge, but it’s a notoriously blunt tool. The root of the current problem is not financial panic but a rational response to the coronavirus. People are travelling less, staying away from shops and the workplace, delaying various projects, and they will keep doing so while the uncertainty remains. This disruption is painful but temporary. It is not symptomatic of financial malaise. It would be a mistake for the Conservatives to use this as a pretext to abandon their five-year plan to control the public finances. The £30 billion stimulus to address jitters over coronavirus was quite

Isabel Hardman

Corbyn racks up another lacklustre PMQs

If a Prime Minister’s Questions before a Budget is rather lacklustre, then this is normally easily excused as being the Leader of the Opposition not putting as much prep as usual into a session that no-one will watch. But while today’s performance from Jeremy Corbyn was indeed lacklustre, it wasn’t any different from his offerings over the past few months. The Labour leader decided to focus on the lot of women in this country, given it was International Women’s Day at the weekend. He started with what seemed a pretty reasonable opener, which was demanding sick pay for those on zero hours contracts, particularly care workers who will need to

Sunak’s leaked tax plan sends precisely the wrong message

It is too expensive. It mostly goes to Southerners who already have plenty of money. And it doesn’t even work very well, while the money would be better spent elsewhere. As the Chancellor puts the finishing touches to his Budget, the leaks suggest that the most generous tax relief for entrepreneurs will either be curbed, reduced or potentially even scrapped completely. But hold on. That’s crazy. It’s just about possible that there might be a worse message to send out about post-Brexit Britain – nationalising the banks, perhaps, or a three-day working week – but it is hard to think of one. In fact, entrepreneur’s relief has been a huge