It normally takes at least a couple of days for a budget to unravel. But the chancellor’s spring statement had landed dead on arrival with not even the usually friendly voices of the rightwing media finding anything positive to say about it. Instead the headlines had been damning. The worst fall in the standard of living since records began. The highest level of taxation since the 1940s. More than a million people to fall into absolute poverty. Nothing for the out-of-work and disabled. Food and energy prices spiralling out of control.
Worse still was the implication that Rishi Sunak was financially illiterate. The incompetent former Goldman Sachs banker who couldn’t make his sums add up. Hopelessly exposed as out of his depth. He had put up national insurance to pay for the NHS and was now reducing the take by raising the threshold. As if he had never intended to hypothecate the tax rise. Fancy that! Then there was the cut in fuel duty that no one would notice as forecourt prices were going so fast. He’d said he would raise them by 5p again in a year’s time, but everyone knew that was a lie. So how was he going to afford the cut long term? As for the opportunistic income tax cut before the next election … the less said the better.
So it was a decidedly tetchy – sulky, even – Sunak who embarked on the morning media round. The chancellor loves a lap of honour when he can smile coyly and luxuriate in the “Dishy Rishi” applause for his generous cash bailouts….