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Budget 2017: Hammond masks gloomy outlook with stamp duty cut

Chancellor calls it a ‘balanced’ budget and uses eye-catching offer to first-time buyers to counter Britain’s deteriorating economic prospects

Philip Hammond placed a stamp duty cut for first-time buyers at the heart of his budget on Wednesday as he sought to mask Britain’s deteriorating economic prospects by pledging to “revive the homeowning dream”.

Faced with evidence showing that the UK will be one of the weakest growing major economies in the next five years, the chancellor announced a modest increase in funding for the NHS, and announced £15bn of measures to tackle the housing crisis.

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:07:57 GMT
Autumn budget: the winners, the losers and the overlooked

First-time homebuyers strike lucky, while diesel car owners pay the price, and police and teachers find no relief

Brexit planners

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:57:06 GMT
Hammond’s ‘make-or-break budget’ wasn’t bold – just more of the same | Aditya Chakrabortty
The chancellor had a choice, an economic stimulus or reprising George Osborne’s austerity. He chose very badly

Philip Hammond is going nowhere – or so he wants you to think. For months, the chancellor has faced a guerrilla campaign from his cabinet colleagues and backbenchers for his sacking and replacement by someone more Brexity, someone more spendy; someone more, well, happy. Wednesday’s budget was his response to all the back-biting and poison briefings. Hence the opening optimism about a Britain “fit for the future”. Hence the jibes at plotter-in-chief Michael Gove and his “economicky” terms. Hence the attempt to craft a budget that told a coherent story about a country with less money but lots of pluck, and a government unveiling the biggest housebuilding programme in a generation. Headline-grabbing policies, personal pugnacity and a tank full of mediocre jokes – these are the classic signs of a chancellor trying his best to reverse out of a dead end.

Related: Help for housing or a kick in the teeth for the young? Our writers on the budget | Matthew d’Ancona, Faiza Shaheen, Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee and Frances Ryan

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:27:00 GMT
The Guardian view on budget 2017: a missed opportunity | Editorial
Philip Hammond has admitted that seven years of obsessing about the public sector deficit and shrinking the state has left the economy enfeebled and smaller than before the crisis. But he continues to put ideology above evidence

The last seven years has been an experiment in politics; testing a hypothesis about whether you could cut your way to growth. Philip Hammond’s budget suggests that you cannot. The government’s argument has been that only a programme of rigid deficit reduction and public spending cuts would heal a sick, bloated economy. The damaging consequences of that strategy were laid bare by the Treasury today. Rolling back key public services and declining to invest for the future has meant the economy is smaller than it was forecast to be. Even worse, it has become enfeebled, unable to grow as fast as it historically has done. The result is a poorer, more indebted British state less able to act in the name of economic justice: the higher pay pledged to low-paid workers by the government under the national living wage scheme won’t now materialise when ministers had promised. The UK has experienced almost a lost decade of stagnating wages and shrivelling the state. It is true that Mr Hammond can say that the economy is now recuperating. But the nation has not recovered its pre-crisis vigour. Nor can the chancellor say when, or if, it ever will.

This budget represents a missed opportunity for Mr Hammond to reset the narrative and build up much-needed political capital with his own side by signalling a new direction about where the government is going. What he did in an hour-long speech was to please neither the state-shrinkers on the Conservative backbenches nor those critics who suggest he should fire up growth with the big bazooka of public spending. Instead the chancellor produced a pea shooter: announcing the only post-election giveaway budget since the millennium by borrowing an extra £14bn over the next five years. More cash for an industrial strategy, infrastructure investment and hi-tech research should be welcomed. As should Mr Hammond’s attempts to tax internet giants, which contrasts with his silence over the recent revelations of offshore tax avoidance.

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:47:14 GMT
Emmerson Mnangagwa hails 'new democracy' in Zimbabwe

Former Mugabe right-hand man who is set to become next president gives first speech after return from exile

Zimbabwe’s former vice-president has said the country is witnessing a “new and unfolding democracy”, as he returned to a jubilant welcome two weeks after fleeing to South Africa following his sacking by Robert Mugabe.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old liberation war veteran and stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF party is to be sworn in as president on Friday. His sacking triggered the political crisis that culminated in the resignation of the 93-year-old Mugabe on Tuesday.

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:20:29 GMT
Caldey ​Island a​bbot apologises over failure to report abuse claims

Daniel van Santvoort acknowledges that allegations against Father Thaddeus Kotik should have been passed on to police

The head of Caldey Abbey has issued an apology acknowledging that allegations of serious child sexual abuse made against a Cistercian monk should have been passed on to police.

Daniel van Santvoort, the abbot at the abbey on Caldey Island, said he was “truly sorry” that allegations made against Father Thaddeus Kotik had not been reported to the authorities, and expressed regret for any harm caused.

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Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:46:45 GMT
Bosnians divided over Ratko Mladić guilty verdict for war crimes

‘Even if he is sentenced 1,000 times to life in prison, justice would still not be served,’ says victim who lost relatives in massacre

The reaction in Bosnia to the news of Ratko Mladić’s conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity was as divided as the country itself, more than 20 years after the end of the civil wars that followed the break-up of the Yugoslav state.

Among Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) the most common response was relief that the trial was finally over and that Mladić – unlike the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milošević – had lived long enough to hear the guilty verdict. The relief was tinged with regret that justice had been such a long time coming and when it came, it appeared so puny alongside the scale of pain and loss.

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 17:19:00 GMT
Argentina: families of 44 lost submarine crew furious over red tape

Delay in launching rescue criticised as RAF aircraft carrying emergency life support pods lands in South American country

Relatives of those on board an Argentinian submarine that went missing in the South Atlantic a week ago have voiced their frustrations with rescue efforts, as hopes of finding the 44-member crew began to fade.

With the seven-day limit on the ARA San Juan’s oxygen reserves having been reached on Wednesday morning, hopes were pinned on the submarine having been able to replenish its oxygen supply by surfacing at some point during the last week.

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Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:13:07 GMT
John Cantlie: plea for release of British Isis hostage five years after kidnap

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders says Cantlie is one of around 22 journalists and media workers still held

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders has called for renewed efforts to secure the release of British photojournalist John Cantlie held by the Islamic State group on the fifth anniversary of his kidnapping.

Cantlie was taken near the Turkish border in northern Syria along with US journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by Isis in 2014.

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Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:43:53 GMT
Family of murdered Maltese journalist file lawsuit against police

Family allege Maltese police are failing to carry out impartial investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s killing

The family of the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was a relentless critic of corruption in the country, are taking legal action against the police force for allegedly failing to ensure the investigation into her killing is impartial and independent.

Caruana Galizia was killed on 16 October after her rental car was blown apart by a powerful explosive device.

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Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:22:26 GMT

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