Now that Brexit is no longer her problem, Prime Minister Theresa May has been making a flurry of spending pledges to shore up her legacy – which the chancellor, Philip Hammond, has been furiously resisting. He is right to do so, says The Times. May has “no business binding her chancellor, let alone the next one and her successor… to far-reaching and substantial spending pledges”, which include an extra £27bn over three years on schools and colleges, independent audits to ensure the effectiveness of a previously agreed additional £2.3bn for mental health provision and a promise to reduce Britain’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, which Hammond says will cost around £70bn a year.
Hammond said in his October budget statement that the purse strings could finally be loosened after ten years of austerity, having built up some £26bn of “headroom”, but his spending plans are predicated on a negotiated Brexit deal.
That money could also be used to “boost the economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit”, says The Economist. May’s pledges fly in the face of such prudence. Well, they’re not going to happen, says Asa Bennett in The Daily Telegraph. She has already backed down on her demand for a cash boost for the education budget, which looks likely to be reduced to a one-off set of cash increases amounting to around £9bn. Meanwhile, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, has ditched her proposal for a £30,000 minimum salary threshold for migrants.
No matter how many billions May spends, she is destined to be remembered as the one who “tried and failed to pass her Brexit deal”, says The Economist. Her attempt to secure her legacy may even be “worse than pointless”. At least she had a reputation as a “dutiful public servant”. She now looks “more like an entitled popinjay who is willing to sully her government’s hard-won reputation for fiscal prudence in a blaze of vanity”.