Budget sketch: Miliband fails to swot on details
THE Budget was such a bitter pill to swallow that George Osborne managed to choke on it. The stream of figures, announcements and aspirational rhetoric ceased to flow as Mr Osborne caught his breath. For a moment, even the Chancellor was speechless.
This was no Ed Balls-style slightly hesitant stammer, the Chancellor had lost his voice completely. As he spluttered and coughed, MPs must have been wondering where he had left it. Perhaps it was lurking in the same place that Mr Osborne had misplaced the UK’s triple-A credit rating.
After a drink of water and what felt like an age, a hoarser version of Mr Osborne’s plummy tones returned – just in time to scrap a fuel duty rise (hurrah), announce a downgraded growth forecast (boo) and unveil a cut in beer duty (glory, alleluia).
Even though Mr Osborne eventually managed to find his voice, the same could not be said of that elusive AAA rating, a fact that Ed Miliband was determined to trumpet after sitting through a litany of gloomy figures. “The Chancellor said it would be humiliating for Britain to be downgraded,” said Mr Miliband. “He is not just a downgraded chancellor, he is a humiliated chancellor too.”
As the invective flew across the chamber, Mr Miliband assumed the role of the officious headmaster normally played by the Speaker, John Bercow.
“Hands up,” shouted Mr Miliband. “Hands up, in the Cabinet if you are not going to benefit from the income tax cut,” he added. Not a hand was to be seen. “At last the Cabinet appear united,” Mr Miliband said with a flourish. It was another attempt to portray Mr Osborne and David Cameron as posh, rich boys who stood to benefit from their own “Bullingdon Budget” – a refrain that had echoes of Mr Milibands previous attempts to play the class warrior.
Other members of the Cabinet were also in Mr Miliband’s sights as he quoted a Cameron speech from the weekend. Mr Miliband recalled that the Prime Minister had said the Conservatives were “here to fight”.
“They are certainly doing that,” he said. “The Business Secretary’s turned on the Chancellor. The Home Secretary’s turned on the Prime Minister. And the Education Secretary’s turned on her.”
Noting that the Chancellor had just joined Twitter, Mr Miliband did his best to sum up the Budget in a 140-character tweet.
“Growth down,” said Mr Miliband in his imaginary tweet. “Borrowing up. Families hit. And millionaires laughing all the way to the bank.”
The insults were carefully crafted, but there was not much in the way of forensic analysis of the Chancellor’s figures. That was surprising, given that shadow chancellor Ed Balls was admonished by the Deputy Speaker for waving the front page of yesterday’s London Evening Standard, that contained the Budget’s contents.
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