If we accept the usual caveat that it’s difficult for any Opposition leader, no matter how good, to respond well to a Budget straight after it has been delivered only in its broad-brush form, then we might conclude that Jeremy Corbyn’s response today was pretty good, all things considered.
The Labour leader was angry and passionate, drawing a strong contrast with the endless wisecracks from Philip Hammond in his own statement. He decided to focus on how people would still be feeling after this Budget, which is a useful device when you simply have not had time to go through the small print that trips a chancellor up. He repeatedly asked Tory MPs what they thought someone caught up in the social care crisis would be feeling now, or how a homeless person might view the small amount of funding announced for rough sleeping. He accused the Tories of running an ‘uncaring’ government.
This works as a holding line until Labour find something they can major on. Corbyn still has a problem, though, in that he lets what he is saying down by thinking that passion can be expressed merely through monotonous shouting. It can not, and the sound of someone speaking at length AT THE SAME ANGRY SHOUTY VOLUME WIHOUT ANY CHANGE AT ALL is not the best way to get an argument across clearly, no matter how well-penned that argument is.
Labour will produce a more detailed Budget briefing later once the party has been through the small print. That’s when the political fighting really starts.