Martin Sorrell’s announcement that he will bring his WPP HQ back to the UK was a dramatic and welcome coup … for Martin Sorrell.
To get to the top of the news was evidence of a nifty spin team, and the lack of an obvious ‘Budget Day +1’ talking point to get the chatterati going.
In first leaving London, and in now saying he might come back, Sir Martin has made himself more of a player than he would have been had he just sat around moaning about things. He has also attached a few strings which, George Osborne having leapt upon his announcement, the Chancellor will feel extra pressure to adhere to.
Osborne did not have a lot to play with, and his MPs clearly thought he made a good job of a bad hand. But the reality is that in the coming months, last year’s austerity Budget will have more impact on people than yesterday’s.
The Chancellor will have greeted every headline that focused on fuel prices, tax changes, enterprise zones or his ‘fuel in the tank of the economy’ closing soundbite as something of a bonus; because he is desperate to shift his economic strategy buzzword from cuts to growth. Alas of growth, there was precious little sign yesterday – the real tale of the Budget – and even less of an indication of where it is all going to come from.
Indeed, lower short-term growth, rising inflation and higher than expected medium-term borrowing were among the fundamentals that formed the backdrop to yesterday’s events. All of that means the Chancellor’s polished (if over political) performance will soon be forgotten and the actual impact of his emergency budget last year on jobs and services will continue to drive the economic and political debate.
He made much of not needing to add to the pain he announced last year. But he knows the actual pain of last year’s announcements, for many, is yet to come. He knows too that though Martin Sorrell may have given his blessing to the corporation tax cut by announcing plans to rush back to blighty, a penny off fuel is not going to get everyone else rushing to the shops.