Hammond’s balancing act

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It will be like a day at the circus for Chancellor Philip Hammond when he delivers his Budget this week. But it will certainly not be a fun day out for him.

In short, it could be a nightmare.

Mr Hammond is far from being a popular figure in the Cabinet, and his relations with the Prime Minister are said to be at a low ebb. On top of all that, he does not enjoy the confidence of swathes of Conservative back-benchers.

So, he has to tread very carefully, if he is to command any real support from his own side.

One area which should be relatively uncontroversial and which he has already half-promised to include, is to provide incentives for a large-scale increase in house building.

But this would need to be allied to further checks on immigration, or else the curse of housing shortage will never go away.

He is also being pressed to remove duty on beer in an effort to stop the daily disappearance of public houses. What is more, pensioners could find themselves worse off. Meanwhile, there are the usual demands for vast increases in the resources available to the NHS, as well as to a further wide variety of public institutions.

Never before has a Chancellor of the Exchequer had to face such a terrifying balancing act.

- The Brexit talks are getting uglier by the day. And the UK’s case is not helped by the unruly band of fifth-column anti-Brexiteer Tories who, many would suggest, are giving succour and comfort to the EU’s flint-like team of negotiators.

Why should the UK be threatened with eye-watering fines for doing what is entirely its right, namely leaving the EU?

Indeed, Brussels is shamefully starting to treat the negotiations as some kind of bad joke.

The UK team needs to be much fiercer, with foghorn diplomacy – that, it seems, is the only way to have any effect on these money-grabbing Eurocrats.

And it might help, too, if the Tory critics of Brexit started to honour, rather than refuted, the decision of the British people at the EU referendum.