Rarely has a man been told to lie so profusely about a future that he knows nothing about than Philip Hammond has been asked to do today

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I have no choice but think about what the Budget may, or may not bring: I will be live on Radio 2 at 1.30pm today as the Chancellor sits down, talking about what he has said, and that means I have to give the subject a little thought beforehand.

What I do know is that I will not get what I want from the budget today. I wanted effective measures against tax abuse and real increases in taxes on wealth. I seriously doubt either will happen. I also want an end to austerity and again expect to be disappointed.

I do, on the other hand, think Hammond is able to upset his own party. He may move against small business and contractors. If he does though presume that he is setting himself up to be sacked. Well, would you want to be Chancellor in this inept government?

Tax changes will be cautious, small and deferred, I suspect, today.

Most spending plans will be in the same league. When Chancellors announce projects of a few million and new railcards you know they are boxed in or out of ideas.

This Chancellor is both of those things: the Tory goal of a balanced budget makes life impossible for Hammond, but also makes no sense and leaves no scope for innovation. This is a party past its economic sell by date.

More important is the boxing in of Brexit. There is talk of the OBR downgrading forecasts because of what it sees as an entrenched decline in UK productivity. This is undoubtedly a real issue that they have had to face because they have been naively optimistic on it, continually overestimating growth as a result, and so overstating revenues and understating borrowing.. But the real issue is Brexit.

The Budget could not be worse timed for Brexit. There are, it is thought, three weeks to go before agreement is reached that there may be trade negotiation or (more likely) that the UK heads for Hard Brexit. Nothing has a bigger impact on the UK's future than this. It does not matter what forecasts are presented today (and they have to assume negotiating success for the government) they will be spectacularly wrong because a) no negotiation will work out as well as the forecasts portray and b) there may be no negotiation at all.

Either way, being realistic, what today is about is distraction activity. No forecast is going to be near right. No promise, barring inaction, can be sure to be fulfilled. The data is wrong. The impression given will be false. The charade will be a sham. Philip Hammond has no better clue what is going to happen than most people because he has no control over it. He just has to vaguely pretend otherwise.

So his only hope is to do little on tax, shrug his shoulders on borrowing, offer token gesture sums to small projects of no significant value, announce reviews into tax reforms and speak grandly of 300,000 new homes a year deliverable at a time when he knows he will be long gone. Which could be by next Tuesday, but may be a week or two later.

Rarely has a man been told to lie so profusely about a future that he knows nothing about than Philip Hammond has been asked to do today. He'll pay for it with his political career. But that may be the best bargain he will strike for a long time to come.