Nelson's Column: Philip Hammond's Budget was about as welcome as used cat litter

Philip Hammond has never peed on a fly. That was my conclusion after watching the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday.

Had he done so Spreadsheet Phil would surely not have hiked tax on the self-employed.

You may be wondering what on earth the financial state of the nation has to do with taking a leak on an insect. It’s about nudging people to behave in a certain way.

It began with a fly painted onto the porcelain in the Gents at Amsterdam International Airport. Spillage reduced 80 per cent because blokes had something to aim at. As a result, cleaning costs went down a fifth.

Side shot of a Robber Fly, which know for their hunting skill
Fly: mugshot
(Photo: Barcroft Media)

This ruse, and others like it called nudges, has been repeated successfully all over the world.

The debt recovery office in Australia’s New South Wales found fines were more likely to be paid promptly when the penalty charge ticket said “you owe” instead of “amount owed”.

Nudge theory was popular with David Cameron and Barack Obama and automatic workplace pension enrolment and presumed consent for organ donation were the results.

There’s no compulsion because you can always opt out. Although these seem more like shoves than nudges.

But nudging can sometimes have the opposite effect to the one intended. When high street jeweller Gerald Ratner joked that his products were crap it nudged customers into not buying them.

Gerald Ratner
Ratner: nudge, nudge
(Photo: James Maloney)

That wiped £500million off the value of his shops which very nearly collapsed and had to change their name.

Spreadsheet Phil may have done the same thing by increasing national insurance for the self-employed. Theresa May is right to delay.

Aside from breaking a manifesto commitment, it sends the wrong signal to people tempted to take the financial plunge and risk starting their own business.

Whether that’s carpentry, cabbing or childcare the self-employed will be the essential cog in the wheel of the post-Brexit economy.

Gladstone: Treasury cat

A Twitter account attributed to Treasury cat Gladstone says he’s been using the budget box as a litter tray. That figures given what came out of it.

I wish I’d been there to witness how Spreadsheet came to such a daft decision.

But in case he’s learned to aim, I’d prefer not to do so as a fly on the wall.

NELSON’S i

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is presented with a marrow by local independent store 'HiSbe' as he talks with Claire Medhurst of Reborn Digital Marketing and Aadam Patel of Halal Celebrations, during a visit to the Brighton Hatchery, prior to the start of the annual Labour party conference at the Brighton Centre
Corbyn’s growth industry
(Photo: PA)

Allotments are being created from 1,200 disused telephone exchanges. Jeremy Corbyn could grow a new vegetable on one. British Telecorn.

CRACKING THE WHIP

TV Licensing must be the country’s most cackhanded enforcement authority.

They’re accused of targeting vulnerable people, and the people they’re targeting in my block are certainly vulnerable to the weather because they must be living on the roof.

You see, TV Licensing thinks Flat 5 has been watching TV without a licence. But there isn’t a Flat 5. Just flats 1,2,3 and 4.

(Photo: PA)

I’ve told TV Licensing this repeatedly but they don’t listen. Threatening letters keep arriving, and they’re wasting more money sending an enforcement officer tomorrow.

So I’ll tell these bozos again. Above Flat 4 there’s nothing but sky. As in empty space. Not the TV channel.

Tom Watson’s Twitter trolls really take the biscuit

Watson: hobnobbing
(Photo: Rex Features)

Free the Chocolate Digestive One. That’s Labour’s Deputy leader Tom Watson who tweeted a thank you to a former Tory council leader for leaving the biccies out for his constituency surgery. Tom was then besieged on Twitter for not setting a good example. Now I know Tom is, er, a little on the round side but haven’t people got more important things to worry about? Tom certainly has. Jeremy Corbyn.

The House of Lords needs a safety catch

Peers: sniping
(Photo: Getty)

Parliament’s rifle range was closed in 2015 because the House of Lords wanted to use the space to store fire safety equipment. They should have thought of something else. I have visions of doddery military peers who were members of the old gun club forgetting it’s no longer there. So they’ll stagger in and cause panic by shouting “load, aim, FIRE!”

One Liam hot on the trail of another

Trade Secretary Liam Fox must be hoping everyone had forgotten Adam Werrity.

But he didn’t reckon on another Liam – former Labour Treasury Secretary Liam Byrne.

The uncertain nature of Werrity’s relationship with Foxy cost him his job as Defence Secretary in 2011.

Now Liam – Byrne not Fox – is asking Parliamentary questions about any current contact between the Cabinet minister and his old flatmate.

Singh it out loud – we’re not on the warpath

Crossbench peer Lord Singh praised the Tories for no longer wanting to conquer any of the world’s 195 countries. He said that would come as a relief to the 22 Britain has not invaded so far.

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