Another new government cabinet, another new bunch of suits. And one of them will affect every single aspect of daily life in the UK for the next few years – from what people buy for dinner to what jobs they decide to train for. Who is this dude?!
Philip Hammond is now in charge of everything to do with Britain’s finances, from deciding how public money is spent to how taxes are raised, and how much money the government should borrow. This morning, he confidently stated he might even ‘reset economic policy’ – whatever that means. Not a great start to making economics more accessible, Phil.
There's probably quite a few people who've never even heard of this guy. That may be partly because he has a reputation for being extremely boring – he’s been called the ‘dullest man in British politics’ and is known for having a voice and personality so robotic that few can stay awake long enough to understand what he’s talking about. But now he’s in charge of the country’s money, and his monotonous words have never been more important.
Some say 'reassuringly boring' Hammond is perfect for the tough job of managing the UK’s finances – made even tougher right now as everyone's wondering what's going to happen to Britain’s economy after the Brexit vote last month. But there's a few questions we'd like to see clarified: What's he actually going to do? Is he really a secret goth? And how exactly did he get so rich?
Unsurprisingly, with all that public cash at his disposal, the chancellor (or Chancellor of the Exchequer) has one of the most powerful positions in government. But here’s the slightly worrying part: there's no clear set of requirements for the job. In other countries, chancellors (or Ministers of Finance) are often long-serving politicians who've held a couple of important posts before – in France, Germany, and the Czech Republic, for example. In the UK, no one seems to mind too much about your CV.
Still, Hammond's worked his way up through various other government posts waiting for his chance at this job. He’s a close ally of new Prime Minister, Theresa May. Plus, he’s pretty loaded, with an £8 million fortune to his name – one of the richest in the Cabinet, in fact. How? He used to be director of a healthcare company, and also worked in the property, oil, and gas industries.
So is he going to follow in the footsteps of the last chancellor, George Osborne? No-one really knows (though we can't quite imagine him being involved in the same kind of drug-fuelled parties as Osborne was rumoured to have attended). He hasn’t given much away when asked about his plans, something he’s well known for from his previous jobs in government. What we do know is that he was known in the Treasury as the public spending 'axeman', a good sign for those who think Britain's debt is a problem but not so great for those concerned that Brexit is going to hit the needy the hardest.
And then there's the whole 'secret goth' thing to clear up. His former school classmate, TV presenter Richard Madeley, tweeted that he "used to arrive in class in leather trench-coat with the Guardian under his arm." Hammond tried to laugh it off, saying goths "hadn’t even been invented in those days." But although the picture does look like pretty much any other school photo to us, the rumours won’t die - and somehow, it’s not that hard to imagine Hammond in black eyeliner.
Goth or not, Hammond is pretty mysterious and difficult to predict. No one really knows what he’s got in store for the economy just yet, but one thing's for sure: he’s someone the UK public should keep an eye on – if they can keep them open while he’s talking – because whatever he decides is going to have a big impact on everyone. #DealWithIt.