Ever keen to show that there’s a man lurking behind the Spreadsheet, Chancellor Philip Hammond usually uses his Budget speech to crack a few jokes, and try to convince the country he possesses a sense of humour. This year was no exception, but whether he managed to achieve anything close to comedy, Mr S will leave readers to decide. Here are the best (yes, these were the best) and worst gags from his Budget speech this year:
‘I’m sure like me, many Members of the House keenly remember the last Budget that was delivered on a Monday. It was 1962. I was six years old. Tensions between Russia and the United States were rising. And a former foreign secretary turned Chancellor delivered a budget amid cabinet revolt. Mr Deputy Speaker I am acutely aware of the phenomenon of false memory, but I could swear I remember my parents turning to me and saying, Philip, one day that could be you.’
‘The media has been full of speculation of the timing of today’s Budget. Some were hoping for a December Budget. I’m sure the headline writers were ready with something like ‘Spreadsheet Phil turned Santa Clause’. Others were desperate for it to be on Wednesday. ‘Hammo-House of Horrors’ perhaps?’
‘But the truth is by choosing today rather than Wednesday I have not avoided the bloodcurdling threats, the anguished wailing and the strange banging of furniture that’s usually associated with Wednesday. I’ve been kindly invited to a special meeting of the 1922 committee this evening.’
‘Predicting 800,000 more jobs by 2023. Now by my calculation Mr Deputy Speaker that’s over 4.2 million net new jobs since 2010. Making the Shadow Chancellor’s prediction of 1.2 million jobs lost, by just the tiniest margin of 5.4 million people. Roughly the population of Scotland.’
‘And it means that we meet our target to get debt falling three years early. A turning point in our nation’s recovery from Labour’s great recession. Both our fiscal rules met. Both of them three years early. So Mr Deputy Speaker, fiscal Phil says fiscal rules OK’
‘The Shadow Chancellor of course rages against PFI at every opportunity, yet curiously forgets to mention that nearly 90 per cent of those contracts were agreed by the last Labour government, leaving the nation with a bill of more than £200 billion to pay off. In what would be the most potent symbol of the economic mismanagement of the last Labour government, if only Gordon Brown hadn’t sold the gold.’
‘The Right Honourable Member for Hayes and Harlington [John McDonnell] lists ‘fermenting the overthrow of capitalism’ as his pastmine. Mine is reinvigorating capitalism for the digital age.’
‘But this step shows that we are serious about this reform. Because Mr Deputy Speaker, it is only right that these global giants with profitable businesses in the UK, pay their fair share towards supporting our public services. And Mr Deputy Speaker I am already looking forward to my call from the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.’
Heckler: ‘Don’t answer!’
‘I am pleased to announce a new mandatory business rates relief for public lavatories, so that local authorities can, at last, relieve themselves.
For the convenience of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, and without wishing to get unduly bogged down in this subject, the House will be interested to know well at least I am demonstrating that we are all British. This relief will extend to any such facilities made available for public use, whether publicly or privately owned. Honestly, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is virtually the only announcement in this Budget that hasn’t leaked.’
‘You will know better than most that every Chancellor likes to have a rabbit or two in his hat as he approaches a budget, but this year, some of my star bunnies seem to have escaped just a little early!
[…] But I shall give the House a sneak preview today: I too can poach a rabbit every now and again.’