Time is short as the chancellor tries to devise a coherent package for his budget on 3 March. Already it looks like being an impossible task.
In the same way as the Conservative party is at odds over how to tackle the pandemic, it also cannot decide on what direction to take when the vaccine – maybe by as early as the summer – begins to clear the economic fog.
To say that there are competing agendas would be to put this budget in the same category as all its predecessors. Rishi Sunak must wish that were the case. This one will be different because the pandemic, the climate emergency and Brexit mean the intensity of rival claims on Treasury funds will be more akin to the early 1980s and the internal battle between one-nation Tories and their free-market adversaries.
When he stands up in the Commons to deliver the first fully fledged non-emergency budget of this parliament, one of Sunak’s main messages will be that he wants to protect existing jobs through the pandemic and also give extra depth to state-funded programmes that create new ones.
An increase in unemployment to about…