Daily Mail

I bet Starmer was thinking: Goody, now Labour will get to crash the economy all over again!

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MOST chancellor­s on Budget days like to play conjurer, pulling rabbits out of hats or mouchoirs from ears – with a flourish and a loud ‘ta-dah!’ The most fiendish sleight- of-hand in their bulging box of tricks is to demonstrat­e how, having trousered most of our hard- earned moolah, a minuscule portion of that cash will now – hey presto! – magically reappear in our wallets via a series of complicate­d tax cuts.

Naturally, we fleeced taxpayers are then supposed to be enormously grateful.

Jeremy Hunt is no such chancellor. Partly because he lacks showmanshi­p, but largely because he’s such a skinflint. Mr Padlock-Pockets. Tighter than two coats of Dulux.

It’s a reputation that has followed him through much of his career. While making his millions from publishing firm Hotcourses, the story goes that the staff bonus one year was a company mouse mat – the lucky beggars!

When he rose to the despatch box at 12.31pm today, the Chancellor at least sweetened the pill with a few chinks of good news. Debt was down, inflation was due to be halved by the end of the year. A recession now appeared unlikely.

LIKE every chancellor before him, he lectured us on how much luckier we were than the poor wretches living in such benighted places as the United States, Japan or Italy. ‘But,’ he added, ‘ we must remain vigilant.’

Treasury translatio­n: Don’t expect too many sweeties.

Caution, caution, caution. Hunt wanted Britain to have ‘the most pro-business, pro-enterprise tax regime’ in the world, yet he refused to halt the kamikaze corporatio­n tax hike. He wanted to kick- start our economy, but wasn’t letting us keep any more of our pay packet.

Apart from welcome pension tax reform and expansion of free childcare provision, the biggest cheer was for a freeze on draught beer prices in pubs which will save heavy elbow tilters... pennies.

But then perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by this softly-softly approach. Hunt is a safety-first sort of chap. The kind of man who possibly takes his own food when he heads off on holiday and always waits the full hour for his lunch to digest before taking his afternoon dip in the hotel pool.

Conservati­ve MPs listened intently while wearing expression­s one would be hard pushed to describe as rapturous.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (NE Somerset) and John Redwood (Wokingham), in particular, were a picture of froggy-eyed glumness. Victorian guttersnip­es queuing up at the workhouse for their lunchtime ladle of gruel.

On reflection, this may not necessaril­y have been a bad thing. They adored Kwasi Kwarteng’s Budget – and look what merry hell broke loose after that.

No matter, Mr Hunt had brought along his own fan base. Up in the gallery sat his wife Lucia and their children, staring down proudly.

At one point, however, one of Hunt’s daughters was seen struggling to keep her eyelids open. She wasn’t the only one. The Chancellor was by now delighting us with his four pillars of industrial strategy – enterprise, education, employment and, er, everywhere.

‘The four E’s,’ Hunt enthused. A neighbouri­ng hack groaned: ‘The four valium, more like.’

Figures were fired from Hunt’s mouth faster than a tennis ball machine. Some of the detail was pretty dense. We heard about things called ‘innovation clusters’ and a ‘quantum- enabled economy’ – whatever they are when they’re at home. He prom

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