The budget showed how strategic planning and investment loses out to quick fixes. A department for the economy is urgently needed
Imagine that the UK established a fully functioning department of the economy. Imagine it was led by a Cabinet heavy-hitter with the clout to resist the Treasury’s desire to strangle the new ministry at birth. Run with the idea for a moment that this new arm of the state had the task of tackling long-term challenges: weak investment, poor productivity, the north-south divide, and the transition to a net carbon-zero economy.
Now stop day-dreaming and wake up to the real world. There have been attempts in the past to siphon off some of the power of the Treasury to a new ministry – most famously the creation of the Department for Economic Affairs by Harold Wilson after the 1964 election. Wilson put George Brown, a heavyweight, in charge but it was still killed off with relative ease by the Treasury.