May to meet business chiefs in effort to sell Budget plans

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The Prime Minister and Chancellor will face more than 100 business leaders and major investors as they seek to win support for the Budget plans.

Theresa May and Philip Hammond will set out the “core messages” from the Budget during the meeting.

It comes after economic experts claimed Mr Hammond had taken a gamble with the public finances and his predecessor George Osborne warned that the Tories should not seek to emulate Labour’s approach to public spending.

Former chancellor Mr Osborne, the architect of the austerity measures now being undone by Mr Hammond and the Prime Minister, acknowledged the economic position was different from the one he had inherited in 2010.

How taxpayers' money is being spent.
(PA Graphics)

“The public finances are in a much better state now in 2018 than they were when I walked into the Treasury in 2010.”

But with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour pushing for major increases in public spending, Mr Osborne warned it would be a political mistake to be drawn into a fight on those terms.

He said the Tories had lost their majority in 2017 by trying to “out-Ukip Ukip” and “we aren’t going to win the next election by trying to out-Corbyn Corbyn”.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “Trying to bang the nationalist drum doesn’t actually work for modern conservativism and trying to outspend our political opponents isn’t going to help the Conservatives either.”

Mr Hammond’s decision to spend the proceeds of better than expected borrowing figures raised eyebrows among economic observers.

He took advantage of a £68 billion windfall from revised borrowing forecasts to help fund a £100 billion loosening of the purse-strings in Monday’s Budget, promising voters a “brighter future” after years of austerity.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that the amended figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility could easily be reversed, forcing the Chancellor to borrow more after “painting himself into a corner”.

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