Colin Montgomery: Buckaroo, the budget deficit and how to balance the books

Chancellor Philip Hammond has little or no chance of hitting his fiscal targets
Chancellor Philip Hammond has little or no chance of hitting his fiscal targets
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These are unstable times across the world. Trump, Brexit, Catalonia, Towie’s Gemma Collins falling off a stage, the list goes on. But for all the instability, some continuity shines through.

hey’re still selling the board game Mousetrap in the shops. I spotted it in a supermarket on Sunday and thought I’d time-warped back to 1980 – when owning your own set of Mousetrap marked you out as a ‘playa’. I know Buckaroo has made a comeback and Monopoly has never gone away, but for me, Mousetrap was the pinnacle, the Chairman of the Board (games).

Speaking of games that are setting us back in time – yep, this is the segue folks – I had to grimace at the economic trap that we’re now in as a nation, set in train by the political shenanigans of austerity zealots. To put it bluntly, the Chancellor Phillip Hammond is now facing the ignominy of having a cat’s chance in hell of hitting his self-imposed – and wholly unrealistic – fiscal targets, thanks to a £20bn black hole in the UK’s finances. Yep, the holy grail of eliminating the deficit seems more elusive than ever thanks to Britain’s appalling productivity record. We lag well behind the US, Germany, France and, as of the latest figures, Spain.

Who’da thunk it? Certainly not the ideologues who slash and burn in the name of economic discipline only to discover that a scorched earth policy isn’t the best way to stimulate growth. This direction of travel, started in earnest by George Osborne, is being found out time and time again against the backdrop of economic peril (sometimes called ‘opportunity’) that Brexit could bring. Now Hammond is in a bind with little wriggle room as to how to remedy this via taxing and/or spending. Will he abandon the deficit targets and start trying to grow our way out of trouble? Expect more political games.