That’s not just the story of yesterday’s Budget, but also of the game of musical chairs that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss endured when trying to get a seat on the frontbench for her boss’s big statement. Twice Ms Truss failed to squeeze in between her colleagues, at one point nearly sitting on top of the Home Secretary.
Philip Hammond was better prepared for what had dropped into his lap. He seized on a tax windfall to set a trap for Brexiteers: support our deal with Brussels and get a “double dividend”, with tax rises, business bonuses and a boost for the NHS – all timed for the day the UK leaves the EU.
Say no and we leave with nothing, was the unspoken threat from the Treasury.
The DUP was won over with a special mention of relief for a fire-hit Primark in a historic Belfast building, and Tories got behind the Chancellor’s unlikely promise that “austerity is coming to an end”.
They even laughed at his toilet humour, as he announced tax breaks for operators of public loos “at the convenience of the House”.
Labour MPs seemed at a loss, faced with the Chancellor’s sudden generosity. When Mr Hammond referred to next year’s Budget, one shouted: “You won’t be here.” She said that last year, and the year before that, he hit back. A bit like promises to balance the books.
There was a standing ovation from the Opposition benches at the end of his statement, but it wasn’t for the Chancellor.
A group of women protesting against losses on their pensions from the rising retirement age staged a demo in the public gallery, holding up banners and clambering over the banks of benches to point and shout from the front row.
Bow-tied Commons doorkeepers clambered along the aisles to usher them away, as the glass screen sealing the gallery from the chamber cut out the noise of their shouts.
The so-called Waspi women know what it is to be stung by unexpected losses. Mr Hammond will hope he isn’t shouting into the void next year, if Brexit strips away all his gains.