The Budget has, in recent years, been more tears than laughter, more pain than gain. Yet the upturn in Britain’s economic fortunes has put the Chancellor, whose ‘5 and 2’ diet has had a dramatic effect on his waistline, in a buoyant mood. Osborne’s wit – famously sharp in private – shone through in public this afternoon.
He began slowly, by teasing Ed Balls. He reminded the chamber of Labour’s dire financial record, which elicited his first laugh: ‘Or, as the Shadow Chancellor put it: “some mistakes were made”.’ Boom-tish.
The gag about the slow pace of construction at Ebbsfleet was a groaner (‘more ebb than fleet’); but things looked up when the speech turned to King John and Magna Carta:
‘A weak leader, who rose to the top after betraying his brother, compelled by gang of unruly barons to sign on the dotted line.’
Even the Labour frontbench were laughing openly at their leader’s least favourite topic of conversation. Mr Miliband responded to the Budget but said little of note.
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