Who'd be Rishi Sunak's tailor this evening? The Chancellor was photographed outside No. 11 this afternoon in a pair of trousers presumably made for an eleven year old, looking fairly chipper about the spring budget statement he was about to deliver to the nation. Thereafter it would have cost him about £2.30 to be driven the mile and a half to the Palace of Westminster with diesel at £1.91 a litre at his nearest filling station in central London; so thank the Lord he took 5 pence off a litre as part of a package to do next to nothing for anyone living a normal life (but at least our trousers fit).
The Office for National Statistics did their merry best to shoulder their way into the headlines this evening, announcing the cresting of the consumer price index at an annual rate of 6.2 per cent in February, up from 5.5 per cent in January and the highest rate since 1992. We in the NTI newsroom think Mr Sunak would have sighed in relief at that number, wondering how on the planet it was so low, and marvelling how he had managed to sell the 5 pence off fuel duty malarky when most petrol stations have a person on full-time duty marking up the 'price-per-litre' sign at the forecourt entrance. Diesel this time three months ago was 20 pence a litre cheaper, so what are we supposed to do with the 5 pence we are going to save from 6.30 this evening? Save it towards the 6 pence per litre rise by this time next week?
WHey, but what was that lump in Rishi's back pocket? Well the Office for Budget Responsibility reckon that the additional tax receipts resulting from higher inflation provide a windfall of roughly £35 billion a year to the Exchequer, with only some of that having to be spent on higher costs of servicing debt and higher pensions and benefits. Ker ching. This is just as well, as Boris was on it again today, making up policy on the hoof, changing planning regulations that have effectively banned the development of onshore wind farms, and looking like the mad professor from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as he did so.
Most people who do not have a turbine on their land figure that, on a scale of evil and the unacceptable, a wind farm is slightly less so than the dimunitive President Putin, and we don't want his oil and gas and friends and poisoning henchmen and industrial mendacity in our lives any more.
So, onshore wind farms it is then, Mr Kwarteng?
"Yes, because they are the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to make electricity and they have been our favourite thing for almost 20 minutes now that we have decided fracking was a terrible idea."
However, this was a good day for the UK steel industry (and we haven't heard that statement very often of late). The US has agreed to ease steep tariffs on our steel and aluminium products as the countries attempt to resolve a Trump-era trade dispute and bolster transatlantic relations. With all the other transatlantic and transpacific and transsiberian activity going on at the moment, you can be forgiven if you missed that, but the suspension of the 25 per cent levy on UK steel imports of up to 500,000 tonnes a year and a 10 per cent levy on aluminium products of up to about 21,600 tonnes a year is a big deal. It re-opens a market for British steel produce at a time when the pound is low and stuff leaving our shores is cheaper in any event.
But those trousers, Rishi ...