Rishi Sunak’s ‘honest’ Budget has passed one big test – but only because he isn’t being believed


R

ishi Sunak has torn up most of the constitutional conventions about Budgets. There used to be an absolute ban on official comment on tax changes in the weeks before; this time all the main changes were announced in advance.

But one ancient tradition never changes. The Budget is not finished until the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has spoken. The IFS always issues its verdict at a briefing for journalists the next day, which always features “The Slides”. Long after PowerPoint has finally been banned, The IFS slides will still be an annual (and sometimes biannual) post-Budget event.

Sunak will be relieved that his Budget survived this morning’s IFS briefing in one piece. The overall verdict from Paul Johnson, the IFS director, is that the chancellor “is not stinting” in his response to the economic damage of coronavirus and the lockdown, “erring on the side of generosity”. If unemployment really does peak at “only” 6.5 per cent, as the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts, Johnson said that would be “a remarkable triumph”.

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