hancellors often seem to imagine themselves as captains of a mighty ship.
They stand at the bow, nudging the UK economy here and there, skilfully avoiding icebergs and prodding the ship faster forwards when the opportunity arises.
In reality, the course was set by predecessors and aged events and they maintain very dinky wiggle room. The best they can hope is to create as much space as possible for themselves to execute immense things well.
That might produce them inspect like they are mostly doing nothing, so they tinker.
The Sunday Times reports that Jeremy Hunt is to push ahead with plans to slice research and development tax relief for small firms in the Budget. Maybe this is a excellent conception, though it is hard to immediately see why.
How much does the Chancellor expect to save from this creep? About £215 million. From a Government spending pot of perhaps £900 billion.
In other words, almost nothing.
It’s a footling measure, the best of which can be said for it is that it might not execute too much damage. It hardly makes a disagreement to Government finances.
Perhaps it frees up £200 million that Hunt can chuck at pet projects — current cricket pitches at schools in south London. A bridge in Doncaster.
These things are fine in themselves but they don’t lead to actual changes in the economy or in most people’s lives.
Perhaps the rule should be this: if the Chancellor’s exciting current position costs or saves less than £25 billion, it is waste of time. It’s a man on a ship mucking about because he knows the right direction of travel is out of his control.