How did George Osborne survive the Urgent Question that John McDonnell asked him today in the Commons about the changes to the Budget? Very well, in that the Chancellor didn’t turn up to answer it, and instead sent poor old David Gauke, who seems to be paying for a great misdemeanour in a past life by having to respond to almost all the UQs that are awkward for Osborne.
The session was awkward for Gauke, but MPs hadn’t come to beat him up, and so it was nothing he couldn’t handle. He repeatedly told those asking him questions that the government had been clear in its plans that it had set out before Parliament – even though the Budget is now anything but clear. Canny questions from Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper on the Labour backbenches pressed the minister on whether the Budget scorecard would be amended and whether given the Budget Red Book contained the cut to personal independence payment, the Budget was still in that Red Book. John McDonnell suggested that the Chancellor should withdraw the Budget and start again, something that in Labour’s world he will presumably do before then resigning, as Jeremy Corbyn suggested.
But even though Osborne may have avoided the Commons heat over this weekend’s row, he still has to face the rage in his own party. And that is not bound by the walls of the Chamber.