Philip Hammond’s pre-budget media round didn’t quite go according to plan.
While extolling the virtues of the UK’s ascendance from some turbulent economic times, the chancellor made the bold claim that “there are no unemployed people” in the UK.
He was quickly corrected on Twitter by literally everyone - there are in fact more than 1.4 million out of work - and quickly moved to clarify that he simply meant unemployment was at a record low, and that embracing new technologies would not put people out of a job.
Elsewhere, Brexit mutineer-in-chief Dominic Grieve described his colleagues as “unhinged”, John McDonnell said people are still living in a recession and Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg crafted his own alternative budget.
Another quiet Sunday in politics, then.
The Andrew Marr Show
John McDonnell was the first in the hot seat and was quick to point out Labour is closing in on the Tories on economic credibility.
This time last year, Jeremy Corbyn’s party were 28 points behind their rivals in opinion polls on that specific issue - and that gap has narrowed considerably.
McDonnell said Labour wants to plough £250bn of investment into public services over the next 10 years - around £25bn a year - and that those levels are necessary in order for the UK to keep up with its international counterparts.
The shadow chancellor said many people still feel they are living in a recession and that “gross inequality” remains in UK society.
“We have had people whose wages have been cut by 10% - nurses for example,” he added.
“For the first time we have people of all generations saying for the next generation it will be worse off for them. Young people these days can’t expect even the same living standards of their parents.”
But he was unable to spell out the concrete cost of his party’s economic plans.
On Brexit, McDonnell told the programme bringing back a hard border in Ireland would be “a nightmare”.
“I would not want to see anything that undermines the peace process,” he said.
Northern Ireland’s future is one of the key issues that must be negotiated upon with the EU before talks can move on to trading relationships.
Philip Hammond, who was next up, agreed with his opposite number.
He said: “Everybody wants to avoid a hard border in Ireland and we are clear it will not be us creating hard infrastructure.”
Hammond said the UK had “had a difficult year”, but he believed the government was “now on the brink of making some serious movement forward with our negotiations with EU”.
Unfortunately for the chancellor, his unemployment gaffe dominated the interview.
When pulled up on his error, he quickly clarified that he had in fact been talking about unemployment levels being at a record low.
Moving to budget-related matters, it seemed apparent NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens will not be getting the extra £4bn he asked for, despite his assertion it was essential for the health service to reach its waiting time targets.
Hammond said the government would deal with pressures on the NHS in “a sensible, measured way”.
“In the run-up to budget lots of people come to see us with very large numbers that are absolutely essential, otherwise Armageddon will arrive,” he added.
“I don’t contest for one moment that the NHS is under pressure. We will work with them and seek to address those pressure points.”
The chancellor set out plans to pave the way for the building of 300,000 new homes a year.
He said it was “not acceptable” that many people were unable to afford their own home - but warned there was no “silver bullet” that would solve the housing crisis.
Hammond also wants the UK to be “at the forefront of the next industrial revolution” and embrace new technologies - revealing he will be going for a spin in a driverless car on Monday.
“I want to see fully driverless cars on the road in the UK by 2021,” he said.
“I believe we have to embrace these technologies and take up challenges if we want to see Britain lead the next industrial revolution. We have got to build industries that will create high paid jobs of the future.
“Either we embrace change and put ourselves at the forefront, or we hide from it and slip behind.”
Peston On Sunday
One-time Labour leadership hopeful David Miliband is paying a brief visit to the political airwaves to promote his new book.
The former foreign secretary, who is now president of the International Rescue Committee, said he believes the UK has a “moral duty” to deal with the plight of refugees.
Miliband said Europe has changed since the UK voted to leave the union, and at the time of the referendum there was “very little flesh on the bones about exactly what Brexit meant”.
Philip Hammond did the double, also appearing on Peston to talk further about his budget on Wednesday.
Reiterating plans for more housebuilding as part of a “balanced budget”, the Chancellor then proceeded to get a bit Game of Thrones, promising the UK would “pay what we owe” as part of Brexit negotiations.
“We should negotiate hard to get the very best deal we can. In the end if we owe something, we will pay it. That’s the kind of country we are,” he added.
Things got a bit lively on BBC Radio 5 live’s Sunday morning show, with Brexit-sceptic Dominic Grieve telling John Pienaar he believes some of his colleagues have become “unhinged”.
The former attorney general, who was named among the Telegraph’s ‘Brexit mutineers’ last week, was swift to point out he didn’t mean Theresa May, but said the government’s plans to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill were “completely goofy”.
Sunday With Paterson
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth joined Sky’s Niall Paterson to question Philip Hammond’s decision not to give more cash to the NHS, given skyrocketing waiting times for treatment.
″I’ve heard Philip Hammon being interviewed this morning and he’s been dismissive of the calls for more money,” the Leicester MP said.
“This is happening now, today, and if he doesn’t realise that he is completely out of touch.”
Beyond the M25, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he was worried about a “London-centric” approach to Brexit, with no regard being paid to the UK’s regions, and said politicians outside of Westminster needed a seat at the negotiating table.
“I’m worried that we will get the same old story, where the government protects the city of London ahead of all other industries,” he added.
And Treasury select committee member Stephen Hammond - another of the Brexit mutineers - described the Telegraph’s front page headline as “pretty silly”.
“I’ve never voted against my party in my life,” the Conservative MP said.
“What we are going through is a normal Parliamentary process.”
BBC Sunday Politics
The two Bs - Brexit and the budget - were high on the agenda on this week’s show.
Tory backbencher and grassroots darling Jacob Rees-Mogg revealed he had written his own alternative budget proposals (because, hey, who hasn’t?), but claimed he had “the greatest confidence” in the chancellor.
The keen Brexit cheerleader also said the government should make good on Vote Leave’s promise of £350 million a week for the NHS.
“Politicians have to recongise that voters do not look at small print,” he said.
“If you put £350 million on the side of the bus, people do not notice the ’may’ - and nor should they.
“It is very important that promise is delivered on.”
However, former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell said he didn’t believe the UK’s exit from the EU would actually happen.
In a head-to-head with Labour Leave supporter and former MP Gisela Stuart, he said: “I accept the result of the referendum, but I do not think we are necessarily going to leave. The public is entitled to change its mind and I think it will change its mind.”
Not enough politics for one day? Listen to our CommonsPeople podcast as we chew the fat over the Brexit ‘mutineers’, Universal Credit ways out for ministers and preview the budget.