The Treasury has been somewhat of a Ministry of Magic under Rishi Sunak – whatever the issue, this Chancellor has been ready to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.
At the outset of the Covid crisis, he conjured up the furlough and self-employment support schemes, there was the bounceback loans, VAT cut and over the summer, Sunak cooked up the eat out to help scheme to give hard-hit restaurants a boost.
So, it was with bated breath that the nation waited to see his next trick this afternoon.
There was the usual build up, a series of slick, polished social media posts followed by a quick grin for the cameras outside Number 11.
Productive meeting and pleased to have support for our Winter Economy Plan from @cbicarolyn of @CBItweets and @FrancesOGrady of @The_TUC ahead of my statement to the House of Commons shortly. pic.twitter.com/vXZEjhRgeI
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) September 24, 2020
In the Commons, there was familiar language about wanting to reassure the “anxious, afraid and exhausted”.
And then, as we’ve now become accustomed, Sunak appeared to snap his fingers and magic the problems away with a raft of new policies.
The job support scheme, pay as you grow scheme, VAT cut and loan extensions would help us through a difficult winter, we were told.
But, much like an audience used to the act, we can see the strings on this trick.
Recover Jobs, Retrain Workers, Rebuild Business: Labour’s 3 steps to a better, more secure future for Britain.
The Chancellor's response today won't recover enough jobs. It was silent on retraining. And it had no plan to rebuild business sustainably.
It’s too little, too late.
— Anneliese Dodds (@AnnelieseDodds) September 24, 2020
The job retention scheme, in reality, will see the government pay a maximum of 22% of a worker’s wage – much less generous than the furlough offer.
Already experts are warning the package is not enough to stave off mass redundancies.
And Sunak realises this, for if you dig deep into his speech he admits it.
“I cannot save every job”, “our economy is now likely to undergo a more permanent adjustment”, “we will adapt and evolve to the new normal”.
These comments hint at what we’ve known for a long time, coronavirus will scar the economy for decades to come. Let’s hope Sunak has not cast his last spell.