Thank heavens that most of the government front bench were wearing face coverings during the budget speech today. Apart from their green eyes it concealed their envy at the most outrageous bid for the leadership that I have ever seen. And I got the distinct impression that several were about to be violently sick.
Poor Boris sat like like Ebenezer Scrooge watching the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The only difference is that in the book Scrooge becomes a kinder gentler man. No chance of that. At the end of Sunak’s speech Johnson reached over in such a violent way that I thought that he was going to throttle him. Clearly he had second thoughts and turned it into a slap on the back. I hope Rishi was wearing Kevlar. And dear Liz Truss, contorted with jealousy,knows how to juggle. Trying to work out the difference between the Sudan and a sedan, finding fiendish ways to block Raab spending Halloween at Chevening, and no doubt contemplating her next instagram shoot. Perhaps being blasted into space in a giant rocket shaped like a Rampant Rabbit. Then my heart went out to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who was kicked firmly in the leadership ballots. He really has behaved like a prize tosser. Leaking to the the press about fictitious bailouts and then persuading Johnson to back him is serious bellendry. The Treasury really do despise Kwarteng. I have never heard such vitriol against a cabinet minister since I used to be briefed by the splendid Charlie Whelan in the Red Lion. Their latest line after calling him a liar, is that his is lazy and not on top of his brief. I fear it will be auf wiedersehen prat in the next reshuffle.
The joy of this budget was that it was so deliciously cynical. Shout outs to constituencies, money for Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland. Even Stoke on Trent, ignored by successive Labour governments, got some dosh. Cheap beer, cutting business rates by 50% for hospitality and most important of all cutting the universal credit taper from 63% to 55%, which may just diffuse the £20 a week cut back.
But it was the delivery. The fluency. The politics. Everything that Boris can’t deliver. It was just cheering for an old hack like me to see. And Sunak will be loved by the treasury. They get their rocks off by getting rid of inconsistencies. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Remember the George Osborne pastie problem?
Oh, and the Sunak instagrams. Vintage West Wing and Obama. The dog. The relaxed. The looking out into the middle distance with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but at the same time masterful. And even the CCHQ budget briefing tweet has an image of him. I have never seen this with any other minister. Oh, poor Liz Truss. I might just crack open a 28% cheaper bottle of Rishi Sunak English sparkling. And it does.
It won’t be long before No10 starts the offensive. They have already briefed the press that this is a victory for Johnson. That it is his budget. Even my dear friend Beth Rigby reported that. But it’s not. He will be fighting back. Dirty.