Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It was as if he had come straight from the coffin....

When the Chancellor stood on the steps of Number 11 and raised his red box, it was as if he had come straight from the coffin some say he spends the night in.

He had either put on weight or he was wearing body armour as he grimaced his way through the ritual like someone with a bad attack of wind.

Normally his Treasury team hang around him for a photo to send to their mams but even they did an early runner leaving George to clamber into his car for the 150 yard drive to the House of Commons for his Budget speech.

With roast Chancellor on the lunchtime menu MPs from all parties, were already sharpening their knives, jostling for seats and generally looking forward to extra humiliation for someone they have all love to hate.

Having read the morning papers they knew most of the goodies in his speech anyway and just wanted to see just how much brass there would be in his neck when he revealed how much further we were in the odure since the last time he said things could only get better.

As it was, George had to sit and sweat for an extra half hour as Prime Ministers Questions had to make its irrelevant appearance before he was hauled to his feet.

Regular readers will know that this is the weekly opportunity for David Cameron to curse the person who told him politics would be a good career move and for Ed Miliband to stay in contact with the earthlings he hopes one day will vote for him.

MPs were content to practise their community shouting as they treated PMQs as the hors d'oeuvres to the main meal.

Dave stood by for his usual shellacking but found himself in the rare position of being asked questions by Ed (about Syria and Cyprus) that he could answer without having to be scraped off the ceiling.

As a sign of things to come, Danny Alexander, fresh from fagging for George, had plonked his substantial part of Scotland between Dave and Nick Clegg. This meant that when George was finally let loose all four members of "the quad", those who determine our economic future, would be shoulder to shoulder - although George would be the only one daring to stand up.

And, as if to get a better view of what might follow, Home Secretary Theresa May, fresh from denying she was after Dave's job, was back in her normal spot on the Government front bench neck greased for rapid nodding.

Also, making a rather bemused appearance was Ken Clarke who earlier in the week had woken up in St Peter's Square to find himself at the inauguration of the new Pope.

With all parts in place, Speaker Bercow let Dave off early and summoned George to the stocks to the general pleasure of all sides.

It should be said from the outset that the Chancellor shares the characteristics of Flashman and takes strength from the volume of abuse hurled at him, particularly from the oiks on the Labour benches opposite.

Head down, he reeled off statistics apparently proving that the British economy was the best in the world apart from a few areas where it wasn't.

This was clearly just the sort of confusing nonsense that both sides wanted to hear and they cheered and jeered in equal measure oblivious to the content.

Speaker Bercow, claiming parliamentary procedure, but obviously aware of trouble on the way, had slipped off for an early lunch leaving one of his deputies to try to control the chaos.
As George soldiered on, Dave suddenly took to poking into his pocket and regularly transferring to his mouth what could have been his PMQs blood pressure pills or snaffled salted peanuts; no clues given by the look on his face apart from pleasure that he, for once, was not in the firing line.

The Sun had reported in the morning that George planned to slash the cost of a pint but even before he got to it in his speech the volume in the chamber gave the impression some members had taken early advantage of it.

So much so that the stand-in Speaker finally had to call order on the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, a man with much previous in the fine old art of sledging, who appeared to have lost it with a copy of the front page of the London Evening Standard.

Somewhat non-plussed George took a drink and almost choked himself as it became clear to those in the chamber, via their iPhones, that the afore-mentioned Standard had published full details of what George was to say even before the words had made their way from his brain to his lips.

An irate Ed B was warned off, calls for him to be kicked out were equally ignored and George rumbled on as iPhone users got a sudden "oops" apology from the newspaper.

And that was the only apology they were going to get as the Chancellor announced further slices of news which his side grabbed with all the relief of those who are 10 points behind in the polls.

After last year's omnishambles this year's budget finished with a flourish, not leaked out this morning, of help for first time buyers, too complicated to be immediately understood
by his side, but with enough Daily Mail buzz words to carry George to his seat with their backing.

With Ed Miliband finally called to reply it was the turn of the Labour side to give the impression that their leader had always been their first choice.

Having been forced to sit still for an hour longer than usual Ed came to his feet like Zebedee on speed, finger already drawn from its scabbard, and insults fighting their way out of his mouth:
      "A downgraded budget from a downgraded Chancellor" was his sound bite.
But, what really stung was his demand that the Tory front bench come clean on who will
personally gain from the "millionaires" cut in the top rate of income tax which comes in two weeks time.

Never mind this budget was his message, "Hands up who will benefit" from the last one, he asked, as the front bench collectively concentrated on the noise from passing tube trains.

George grimaced again - as did a few others.