London Playbook: Budget air battle — Tax division — Credit Suisse fears

London Playbook: Budget air battle — Tax division — Credit Suisse fears
Опубликовано: Thursday, 16 March 2023 10:48

Presented by Lowell

By DAN BLOOM

PRESENTED BY

Lowell

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Good Thursday morning. This is Dan Bloom. Good luck getting to work in the rail strike — at least the Tube should be up and running by mid-morning.


SPOTTED: Treasury officials cowered under umbrellas outside Westminster’s Two Chairmen pub last night as they toasted their budget in the warm March rain, my colleague Emilio Casalicchio texts to say. Civil servants spilt onto the street and round the corner. A witness tells your author it was “not as raucous as after Kwasi’s one in the autumn — the weather played a big role — but the hangover won’t be as bad either.”


Not spotted: Jeremy Hunt missed the soggy pub drinks, but did find time to attend a glitzy event hosted by Bloomberg. Playbook’s Eleni Courea hears he delivered some “warm words” then held a Q&A with businesses. The ordinarily U.S.-based Mike Bloomberg was there — hours after his glowing budget praise appeared in a Treasury press release.


Living the high life: Not content with getting damp at street level, your author hears some officials — including a Treasury minister — celebrated across the river at the rooftop Bar Elba … where they were accompanied by Love Island contestant Casey O’Gorman.


**A message from Lowell: The latest update to our Financial Vulnerability Index reveals that Scotland has seen the greatest improvement in financial health and is now in a more financially stable position than other parts of the UK. To find out how your area is faring, explore the tool here.**


DRIVING THE DAY


AIR BATTLE: Hunt is setting off on a broadcast round to sell his “the plan is working” budget to the nation — and defend a near-£1 billion pensions tax cut for the rich that Labour has just promised to reverse. The chancellor is on Sky at 7.05 a.m. and the Today program at 8.10 a.m., relaxes on the This Morning sofa at 10.35 a.m., then pre-records the News Agents podcast (5 p.m.) and Andrew Marr’s LBC show (6 p.m.). (Full listings below.)


Rumor has it … that Hunt has also invited newspaper editors into No. 11 today to give them the sales pitch in person.


The ground battle: Many Tory MPs are relieved that boring is back and the economy will flatline this year, instead of a full-on recession. But as corporation tax and stealth rises lead to the highest tax burden since World War II — while disposable income sees a record fall — there’s plenty of time for it to go wrong. Remember George Osborne’s 2012 omnishambles and Liz Truss’ mini-budget took days to unravel properly.


SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: The papers are a mishmash with not a cringey cartoon in sight — the Sun (which Hunt name-checked) goes with “Tanks a lot” for the fuel duty freeze … the Express has a high-fiving Hunt and “We’ll make this work for Britain” … the Guardian says abolishing the lifetime allowance on pensions is a “giveaway for the 1 percent” while the Mirror says they’re “pots for the rich” … the Times noses on the “biggest tax burden since the war” … the i and Mail both pick the £29.3 billion-a-year stealth hike by 2027/28, which comes from freezing personal tax thresholds … the Independent has a neutral “what it means for you” sell … the Metro enjoyed Hunt dropping Es everywhere … and naturally, the Star says a 6ft 4in jockey wants to win at Cheltenham.


MEANWHILE IN ZÜRICH: The FT and Telegraph splash on the risk of impending disaster at Credit Suisse, whose share price has plunged days after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. The Treasury was not commenting last night, but the Telegraph reports the Bank of England was holding emergency talks with international counterparts. Bloomberg has a fascinating explainer of what has gone wrong, from “entanglement in a Mozambique corruption case” to a “spying scandal,” but says in key ways it’s not as serious as Lehman Brothers in 2008.


ONSLAUGHT OF THE THINK TANKS: The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which often sets the budget Day 2 agenda, kicks off its analysis at 10.30 a.m. … Office for Budget Responsibility Chairman Richard Hughes, RF chief exec Torsten Bell and Treasury Committee Chairwoman Harriett Baldwin speak at the Resolution Foundation at 9 a.m. … and Hughes and IfG experts speak at an Institute for Government event at 12.45 p.m.


NEWS JUST IN: The Resolution Foundation’s overnight analysis, released an hour ago, says real disposable incomes are on track to remain lower by 2027/28 than before the pandemic — while some departments face 10 percent real-terms cuts.


Squeamish Tories look away now: The RF says the 37.7 percent tax burden by 2027/28, a 70-year high, will equal £4,200 extra per household since 2019 — yet Hunt only has a quarter of the headroom the last three chancellors had.


WHAT THE IFS WANTS TO TALK ABOUT: IFS Director Paul Johnson tells Playbook the tax burden won’t come down significantly in his lifetime: “Unless we decide to stop paying pensions or privatize half the NHS or something, it’s very hard to see how you do that.” Playbook asked him what three questions he’d put to Hunt on the media round. They were: why hasn’t he mitigated “very big” tax rises coming in April? … Will he consign nurses and teachers to real-terms pay cuts after giving no new Treasury cash? … and “are you really going to increase fuel duty next year?” (Hint: No.)


WHAT LABOUR WANTS TO TALK ABOUT: The party is giving both barrels to Hunt’s decision to scrap the £1.07 million lifetime tax allowance on pensions from April, to prevent doctors going into early retirement. A Labour attack briefing released an hour ago claims a few thousand wealthy retirees will benefit per year to the tune of £45,000 — while “basic rate taxpayers face an extra £650 in tax next year.”


Tax division: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves — who is on Today at 7.30 a.m. — told ITV’s Robert Peston that Labour will force a vote on the “tax cut for the richest 1 percent” in the Commons next week. This morning she also committed to reversing it if Labour wins the next election. She called it the chancellor’s 45p tax rate moment.


But but but … Awkwardly, shadow health sec Wes Streeting said in September he’d abolish the cap (albeit only for doctors). Labour is saying it’d reverse the budget change and introduce a “targeted scheme” for doctors instead.


Digging in: Expect Hunt to argue it’s a problem with the tax system that needs fixing. But his officials were given a rough ride by Lobby hacks Wednesday over the £835 million-a-year price tag by 2027/28 … why he had to scrap the allowance completely rather than just raising the cap, a nuance which favors the wealthiest … and why the reform is only predicted to keep 15,000 more people in the workforce over five years.


Differing opinions: An expert quoted by the Times fears it will create a “massive inheritance tax loophole.” Ex-Pensions Minister Steve Webb tells the FT it will “set millions free.” The Mail quotes a consultant saying it’s an “expensive sledgehammer to crack a nut” … but also says criticisms are “predictable attacks from the enemies of thrift and enterprise.”


IN LABOUR LAND: Keir Starmer is visiting a life sciences firm in Edinburgh and recording a pool clip at noon, where it wouldn’t be surprising if he jumps on this too.


IN TORY LAND: Hunt’s 40-minute trip to the 1922 committee of Tory backbench MPs last night left many content, but eyeing the next fix. Outside the room, Tory MP James Sunderland said it was a “good day for the party,” but there were “a few questions about what next.” He said Hunt “was quite guarded but clearly there’s other ideas in the fire for the next budget.”


About that: The chancellor remarked on his way in that the budget would help win the 2024 election. But he dodged saying last night if he’ll ease the tax burden before then, telling Peston: “I’m not interested in playing games.”


The biggest warning shot: Jacob Rees-Mogg — who is doing more interviews this morning — said “salami-slicing” next month’s corporation tax rise by having two new capital allowances to compensate was “not a good approach to tax policy.” He also told Times Radio he was “worried about the freezing of thresholds” on income tax. Fellow ex-Cabinet Minister Andrea Leadsom told Times Radio: “As soon as we possibly can we’ve got to link those tax thresholds to inflation.”


Ones to watch: Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were not seen in the chamber during the budget and their spokespeople were tight-lipped last night. But the Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith cites allies saying they are against the corporation tax rise.


Not happy either: Truss-ally Simon Clarke tells the Telegraph “we urgently need to have a more Conservative position on tax.” Meanwhile, Tory MP Miriam Cates writes in the Telegraph to condemn the childcare expansion, saying it’s untrue that “mothers are more valuable to society in the workplace than looking after their own children.”


PM IN COMPETENCE SHOCKER: After securing a Northern Ireland deal and getting small boats legislation under way, Sunak has sparked shocking talk in Westminster that he might actually be quite good at his job. If he was hoping for a hat trick with the budget, he’s not quite there, write my Lobby colleagues in their stocktake — with warning lights flashing. But “like Ben Stokes and England’s cricket team, his quiet self-confidence may change what the same team believes is possible,” said one loyalist.


How’d he do that? “It turns out working like an absolute maniac and being forensic is quite useful,” one of his ministers tells my colleague Esther Webber and co. But the bar is on the floor, as one business lobbyist puts it: Sunak “could stand at the podium and soil himself, and he’d be doing a better job than his predecessors.”


MIGRATION ROW: Beware new Tory rumblings after the OBR said net migration — once promised to be under 100,000 — will “stabilize” at 245,000 a year. The 160,000 people it is predicted to add to the labor market are more than the 110,000 from all the back-to-work budget policies put together. The Times points out Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s “ultimate aspiration” is to get back to five-figures.


FOCUS! Pollsters JL Partners carried out snap focus groups with 101 people for the campaign website 38degrees last night, and said “actively positive views seem largely on hold” until people can judge the effect on the cost of living.


In their own words: A Tory-voting health care worker in his 40s from Birmingham said: “It will make no difference at all, the prices are still high and my wages are no different.” A Labour-voting quality assurance analyst in his 20s from Bury St Edmunds said: “It should improve our financial situation as well as many others’.”


The perils of snap polling: YouGov asked 3,096 people by 6 p.m. if they supported or opposed the budget measures; 28 percent supported, 18 percent opposed … and, er, 54 percent answered: “Don’t know.”


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INTO THE SMALL PRINT


CHEATS’ GUIDE: The Commons Library released a 22-page summary of the budget overnight. Just in case you’ve not woken up yet, key policies included … Freezing fuel duty … Two tax breaks to business (three-year “full expensing” and the first-year allowance) worth a combined £9 billion a year … £1.07 million lifetime allowance on pension pots scrapped … Annual allowance on pensions rises by half to £60,000 … £2,500 energy bills extended to June costing £3 billion … £600 sign-up bonus for new childminders, or £1,200 through an agency … Universal Credit childcare costs paid up-front and the cap rises from £646 to £951 this summer… Beer to have 11p less tax from pubs than supermarkets …


And breathe … Five construction occupations added to the migration shortage list … Nuclear energy to be classed as environmentally sustainable … £11 billion more for “defense and security” spread over five years (the Mail quotes Tory MP Tobias Ellwood saying it should be more) … £8.8 billion for City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements covering 2027-31 … A 27 percent investment credit for R&D firms … £900 million for “an exascale supercomputer” … but corporation tax still rises from 19p to 25p in April … and no new money for public sector pay.


LONG WAIT: Many headline measures will only be fully rolled out after the next election, including … 30 hours’ free childcare for working parents of kids aged 9 months to 36 months from 2025 … Full 8 a.m.-6 p.m. wraparound school childcare from 2026 … Defense spending only hits 2.5 percent after 2025 when “circumstances allow.” A parent waiting for free childcare tells the BBC: “It makes me angry. I just don’t understand why it can’t be done now?”


Longest of all: The Work Capability Assessment for sick and disabled people will be scrapped for new claims from about 2026-29, and existing claims after that. The PIP assessment will be the gateway to two different payments — details here. The i’s Chloe Chaplain points out hundreds of thousands receive WCA-linked support, but not PIP.


NOT OUT THE WOODS YET: While inflation is projected to fall from 10.7 percent to 2.9 percent in a year, the word “technical” is doing the work in “no technical recession” — as GDP still contracts by 0.2 percent this year. Debt interest spending also hits a record £114.7 billion in 2022/23, nearly double the previous year.


WHAT A FISCAL DRAG: The extra £29.3 billion paid in income tax and National Insurance in 2027/28, as people are dragged above frozen thresholds, is the equivalent of raising income tax by 4p in the pound according to the OBR. The Times says 3.2 million more people will be dragged into paying tax.


NUMBERS GAME: Many press questions focused on the OBR’s prediction that all the “back-to-work” measures put together will help between 55,000 and 240,000 people back into the workforce by 2027/28. About half come from expanding 30 hours’ free childcare.


CHILDCARE SMALL PRINT I: Treasury officials told Playbook that while funding to nurseries will go from about £6 to £8 per hour for 2-year-olds, the increase for 3 and 4-year-olds is much smaller — from £5.29 to over £5.50. This will infuriate the Early Years Alliance, which says without proper investment it’ll be a “disaster.” Hunt last night insisted the policy would lead to “many more nurseries being set up” but wouldn’t say how many, telling Peston: “It’s not for government to calculate exactly the number of nurseries, we’re not Stalinist Russia.”


CHILDCARE SMALL PRINT II: The IFS says that because parents become ineligible for the full offer once they earn £100,000, they face a cliff-edge where their disposable income will fall by £14,500 (£20,000 in London) as soon as they tip over the threshold. The think tank calls it “one of the most severe distortions you are ever likely to see.”


GULP: Despite good news on beer, alcohol duty will rise 76p on a bottle of vodka, 44p on a bottle of wine, 97p on a bottle of sherry and £1.30 on a bottle of port from August 1 (h/t the Sun’s Harry Cole).


SMALL PRINT WIN: The cap on Universal Credit childcare costs had been frozen since 2016 — but now, after Wednesday’s one-off rise, it is modeled to keep rising with CPI in future years.


WINNERS AND LOSERS: The Treasury’s distributional analysis shows the poorest households gain most overall, but a lot of it’s down to cost-of-living payments.


KNOCK KNOCK: HMRC intends to “temporarily boost” its debt collection operation “by increasing private sector capacity” between now and March 2025, netting up to £395 million extra a year.


WHEN I COME AROUND: The U.K. will announce a raft of environmental policies in the next fortnight — nicknamed “Green Day” — to protect British industries from the wave of U.S. subsidies in Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, reports the Bloomberg team.


COMMENTARIAT ROUNDUP: The FT’s George Parker says Hunt, who prepared with a 19-mile (!) run, hopes next year “to be showering cash on the voters” … The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar says the “very narrow path” to victory revolves around the economy … the Express‘ Sam Lister says it “was the middle act in a trilogy he hopes will end with a tax-cutting finale” … Sky’s Ed Conway says the big picture is a little better than in the fall but that’s an “utterly grim” low bar … The i’s Paul Waugh says the chancellor has been “ruthlessly nicking bits of policy” from Truss to Labour … ConHome’s Paul Goodman says Hunt is still “shielding a candle from the wind” … Andrew Neil in the Mail warns the “safety-first” budget may have been a missed chance to win the election.


LEADERS ROUNDUP: The Times says Sunak and Hunt “deserve credit for restoring stability” but “must restore optimism” … The Mail says it can be a “step on the road” to a surprise election win … The Sun says “taxes remain far too high and growth is woeful” … the Telegraph says the Thatcherite ambition of a small small state has “been abandoned” … while the Guardian says the budget is “austerity by another name” … and the Mirror says it “offered a few botched repairs from the same cowboy builders responsible for the major damage.”


SKETCH ROUND-UP: Rob Hutton in the i says Hunt was an “earnest vicar who put the Commons to sleep” … while the Mail’s Henry Deedes airs delightful claims that “Mr Padlock-Pockets” Hunt is so tight, he once gave his staff a mousemat as a company bonus.


MAKE IT STOP: A “leaked budget” Twitter exchange between two government accounts was so cringeworthy your author felt like quitting the internet for good.




TODAY IN WESTMINSTER


TOCKED OFF: Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden is due to announce the government’s TikTok policy today, two people with knowledge of the timing tell Playbook. He is tipped to give a Commons statement banning the Chinese-linked app from government phones.


WATCHING BRIEF: We may find out in this morning’s business statement if MPs will vote on the Windsor Framework next week, despite the DUP still mulling its verdict on Sunak’s post-Brexit rules for Northern Ireland. Ex-PM Tony Blair gives evidence to the Northern Ireland affairs committee about the Good Friday Agreement at 9.30 a.m.


DEAL OR NO DEAL: NHS staff council unions and Health Secretary Steve Barclay enter Day 7 of pay talks today — and the Guardian’s Aubrey Allegretti tentatively reports they are on the verge of a breakthrough. The government last night said talks have been “constructive and meaningful” so far.


Buried by the budget: The Environment Agency’s outgoing chief said “some people can no longer afford to work for us” in a remarkably frank hearing with MPs. Civil Service World tuned in.


STRIKING TODAY: RMT rail workers in train operating companies (TOCs) but not Network Rail … along with NEU-member teachers across England and Wales, and staff at 150 U.K. universities in UCU.


Service update: The Rail Delivery Group says trains will typically only run between 7.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. and not at all in some areas. Check services here. A Department for Transport statement last night accused the RMT of denying members “a say on their own future” by not putting the last TOCs offer to a referendum.


ON TRACK: National rail passenger numbers exceeded 100 percent of pre-COVID levels for the first time since March 2020 last month, the DfT — which has used falling passenger numbers to justify controversial reforms — said.


Awkward: Some striking workers couldn’t get to Wednesday’s union protests in Westminster … due to the Tube strike.


DOCTORED FACTS: Doctors’ union the BMA has been given the Full Fact treatment over a viral graphic that claimed a junior doctor earns less per hour than a Pret barista. The charity says the BMA’s £14.09 figure is the hourly basic pay of only the lowest ranked doctors, and with no night or weekend supplements.


EQUAL PAY CHAMPION OF THE WEEK: Labour peer Anthony Young has been accused of “talking rubbish” after suggesting Gary Lineker and his co-hosts could be replaced by female presenters — for “probably half the price.” The Telegraph ran the story, one year to the day since Young was castigated for falling asleep in the Lords chamber.


Now read this: Had Lineker spoken in support of government policy, would Tim Davie really have suspended him? Unlikely, says Jolyon Maugham KC, the director of Good Law Project, in this op-ed for POLITICO.


MODERATE LANGUAGE LATEST: The New European’s cover this week mocks up Enoch Powell behind the No. 10 Stop The Boats lectern.


HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 9.30 a.m. with Cabinet Office questions followed by Commons leader Penny Mordaunt’s business statement … and then the main business is the budget debate. The Tories’ Saqib Bhatti has the adjournment debate on HS2 and local community relations.


WESTMINSTER HALL: Debates from 1.30 p.m. on topics including relations with China during Xi Jinping’s presidency (led by the DUP’s Jim Shannon) and car parking for care workers (managed by Tory MP Damien Moore).


On committee corridor: DLUHC Permanent Secretary Sarah Healey is among those giving evidence to the public accounts committee about the timeliness of local auditor reporting (10 a.m.) … and the Lords’ horticultural sector committee hears from horticulture experts including NFU President Minette Batters (10.30 a.m.).


HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 11 a.m. with oral questions on the impact of uni strikes, supporting the bus industry and improving housing conditions … the main business is the second reading and all remaining stages of the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill. Tory peer and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Joanna Penn leads a debate on the budget.


**On March 21, Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault and chairman of ACEA will join our senior policy reporter Josh Posaner for an exclusive one-to-one interview. The interview takes place during POLITICO Live’s event "Made-in-Europe: How to keep up the fight in the electric car race?". Interested in receiving the recording of the interview? Sign up today!**


BEYOND THE M25


BUDGET SPECIAL: Playbook reporter Noah Keate has rounded up how the various leveling-up promises (or otherwise) went down beyond the Home Counties …


GREATER MANCHESTER’S GREATER POWERS: Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and 10 leaders welcomed the region’s first devolution deal with the government since 2017. It gives greater control over transport and housing plus £150 million for brownfield funding.


WHEN IN WALES: Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford criticized Jeremy Hunt for delivering “less than a bare minimum budget,” while the government in Cardiff labeled £20 million to secure the future of Holyhead Breakwater “welcome but long overdue.”


WHISKY GALORE: The National reports whisky producers were less than impressed with Hunt’s decision to raise duty by 10.1 percent, with Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief exec Mark Kent calling it “the wrong decision at the wrong time.” Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney meanwhile declared the budget “another missed opportunity” for lifting families out of poverty.


LET THEM ERADICATE POTHOLES: Tory MP Mark Jenkinson welcomed the government’s extra £200 million for repairing potholes, with Cumberland gaining an extra £3 million after Cumbria was dubbed the “pothole capital of England.”


CANARY WHARF CLONES: Despite Liverpool City Region being one of 12 new investment zones receiving £80 million each, its Mayor Steve Rotheram was less than impressed by the overall budget, claiming it “was largely a rehashing of ideas we’ve already heard before.” ITV reported Mansfield’s Tory MP Ben Bradley was much more complimentary about the East Midlands’ inclusion in the zones.


East is east: Norwich Labour MP Clive Lewis was quick to point out that not one of the 12 investment zones was located in the eastern region, blaming the decision on the electoral system. The Centre for Policy Studies’ Robert Colvile meanwhile said not including Cambridge in the zones “is bad, bad, bad.”


WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: The Scotsman says Jeremy Hunt is accused of “sticking plaster” on cost of living … The National asks “Is this what you meant by pooling and sharing?” … The Yorkshire Post highlights Yorkshire’s £250 million budget boost to growth … and the Northern Echo questions whether this budget “will get us back to work.”


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MEDIA ROUND


Chancellor Jeremy Hunt broadcast round: Sky News (7.05 a.m.) … BBC Breakfast (7.30 a.m.) … Good Morning Scotland (7.45 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.50 a.m.) … Today program (8.10 a.m.) … This Morning (10.35 a.m.) … The News Agents (released 5 p.m.) … LBC (released 6 p.m.).


Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves broadcast round: BBC Breakfast (7.10 a.m.) … Today program (7.30 a.m.) … 5 Live Breakfast (8.05 a.m.) … Times Radio (8.20 a.m.) … GMB (8.20 a.m.) … Sky News (8.35 a.m.) … LBC (8.50 a.m.).


Also on the Today program: Office for Budget Responsibility Chairman Richard Hughes (7.09 a.m.).


Also on Good Morning Britain: The Resolution Foundation’s Torsten Bell (6.40 a.m.) … Money saving expert Martin Lewis (8.30 a.m.)


Also on BBC Breakfast: SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn (6.40 a.m.) … BMA pensions committee Chair Vishal Sharma (6.50 a.m.).


Also on Sky News Breakfast: RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch (7.30 a.m.) … Former Head of the Royal Navy Alan West (8.20 a.m.).


Also on Times Radio Breakfast: Mick Lynch (7.30 a.m.).


Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: Former work and pensions sec Chloe Smith (7.10 a.m.) … Owner of Timpson John Timpson (7.40 a.m.) … Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil (8.20 a.m.).


TalkTV Breakfast: Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (7.05 a.m.) … Fair Fuel U.K. Founder Howard Cox (7.30 a.m.) … Former Health Minister James Bethell (7.45 a.m.) … Economist Gerard Lyons (8.05 a.m.) … The TUC’s Head of Public Services Kevin Rowan (8.20 a.m.).


LBC News: UKHospitality’s Kate Nicholls (6.45 a.m.) … Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney (7.50 a.m.).


GB News Breakfast: The Spectator’s Freddy Gray (6.30 a.m., 7.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m.) … Former Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg (8.45 a.m.).


Politics Live (BBC Two 12.15 p.m.): Tory MP Danny Kruger … Shadow Employment Minister Alison McGovern … Best for Britain’s Naomi Smith … The IEA’s Reem Ibrahim.


TODAY’S FRONT PAGES


(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page):


Daily Express: We’ll make this work for Britain.


Daily Mail: Is it enough to turn the tide?


Daily Mirror: Pots for the rich.


Daily Star: It’s a long shot.


Financial Times: Swiss central bank offers to support Credit Suisse⁩ after shares plunge.


i: Stealth 4p rise in income tax, with 6 million facing squeeze.


Metro: The easy does it budget.


POLITICO UK: Rishi Sunak picks his way through budget minefield.


PoliticsHome: Jeremy Hunt’s low key budget keeps Tory MPs on side.


The Daily Telegraph: Swiss bank crash stokes fears of new global crisis.


The Guardian: Giveaway for the 1 percent.


The Independent: Slashed — Inflation to 2.9 percent. Scrapped — Pension pot caps. Extended — Free childcare.


The Sun: Tanks a lot!


The Times: Hunt waves through biggest tax burden since the war.


TODAY’S NEWS MAGS


POLITICO Europe: Too close to the sun — The making and unmaking of Eva Kaili.


The New Statesman: The Iraq Catastrophe — Why the West’s disastrous war still shapes the world, twenty years on.


The Spectator: Crash test — Kate Andrews and Julian Jessop on the new era of economic uncertainty.


LONDON CALLING


WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Clouds and sunshine throughout the day. Highs of 14C.


SPOTTED … at the Irish Embassy St Patrick’s Day reception, where the Guinness and Baileys were both flowing with alacrity … Ministers Thérèse Coffey and Steve Baker …. Shadow Ministers Emily Thornberry, Angela Smith and Stephen Doughty … MPs Simon Hoare, Claire Hanna, Wendy Morton, Hilary Benn, Sharon Hodgson, Tommy Sheppard, Angus MacNeil, Peter Bottomley, Kevin Foster and Margaret Ferrier … Peer Paul Murphy … Journalists Adam Payne, Andy Bell, Christopher Hope, Brendan Carlin, Emilio Casalicchio, Antonello Guerrera, Mark Paul, Michael Cockerell, Chris McKeon, Clare Parry, Darren McCaffrey and Rob Hutton … Longstanding No. 10 SpAd Sheridan Westlake … Windsor Taskforce’s Mark Davies and Aine Collins


And breathe: … Former Downing Street Press Secretary Rob Oxley … Liz Truss’ Press Secretary Jonathan Isaby … Irish Ambassador to the U.K. Martin Fraser … Deputy EU Ambassador to the U.K. Nicole Mannion … The Institute for Government’s Hannah White and Jess Sargeant … U.K. in a Changing Europe’s Jill Rutter … Centre for European Reform’s Charles Grant … Flint’s Sam Lowe … Food and Drink Federation’s Dominic Goudie … and comedian Dara Ó Briain.


SCOOP — BRITAIN’S TOP DIPLOMAT: Liverpudlian Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey told fellow guests she has given up her Eurovision ticket … for Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. How’s that for improving relations with Dublin?


NEW GIGS: Rachel Mackie becomes engagement editor at The Scotsman from April, while former head of the DHSC newsdesk Ben Hemington is leaving next week to become chief speechwriter and comms lead to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer.


OPEN TO ENTRY: MHP Group’s 30 to Watch Journalism awards, which celebrate U.K. journalists under 30, remain open for entries until March 31. Entry is free and covers nine categories — find out more here.


TV GUIDE: “Nazanin,” a documentary about the battle to bring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe home from Iran, airs tonight at 9 p.m. on Channel 4.


CULTURE FIX: Former Guardian journalist Gary Younge’s latest book — “Dispatches from the Diaspora: From Nelson Mandela to Black Lives Matter” — is out today. It’s published by Faber & Faber here.


JOB AD: BBC Radio 5 Live is hiring journalists to work on the Breakfast program’s news output and commissioning, based in Salford.


JOB AD TWO: The Department for Business and Trade is looking for a senior press and communications officer and “may include opportunities for overseas travel.”


BIRTHDAYS: POLITICO’s own Cristina Gallardo … Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds … Scottish Government Minister Neil Gray … Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney … Reach PLC Editor-in-Chief Lloyd Embley … NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg … NATO Assistant Secretary General Angus Lapsley.


PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Noah Keate and producer Grace Stranger.


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