Chaos ensued on the Government frontbench as Cabinet Ministers jostled for prime position ahead of the big set-piece speech, in a perfect analogy of the political backdrop to this Budget, Arj Singh writes.
One Tory leadership hopeful, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, eventually got her seat next to Chancellor Philip Hammond, but only after sitting in the lap of the bookies’ favourite for next PM, Sajid Javid, to the delight of the laughing backbench mob.
Mr Hammond had also got the Tory war memo, joking that despite unusually scheduling his speech on a Monday to avoid inevitable Halloween headlines, he had still failed to avoid “the bloodcurdling threats, the anguished wailing and the strange banging of furniture that’s usually associated with Wednesday”, as he was “kindly invited” to a special meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories yesterday evening.
Obviously Boris Johnson got in on the act, scowling at his Brexiteer mates as the Chancellor’s attempts at humour reached a nadir with a string of toilet puns that left observers cringing as one of the UK’s most senior Ministers morphed into Alan Partridge.
For it was difficult to see this Budget, solid as it was, as anything other than a sideshow to Brexit and the trainwreck of the Tory Party, especially after Mr Hammond and Theresa May gave contradictory signals on whether these tax and spending pledges would last if Britain crashes out of the EU with no deal.
It was left to Dewsbury Labour MP Paula Sherriff to sum up the state of flux the Government’s top two find themselves in.
As Mr Hammond announced plans to confirm something in the Budget next year, she shouted: “You won’t be here!”