The Independent

Good times are here again!

What was really going through the chancellor’s mind as he delivered his Budget statement, imagined by John Rentoul


What Jeremy Hunt said: In the face of enormous challenges, I report today on a British economy which is proving the doubters wrong in the autumn.

What he really meant: Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng said we were going to low-growth hell in a high-tax handcart, and that

what I was doing was a terrible admission of defeat. Well, here I am to say good times are here again.

What he said: Today, the Office for Budget Responsibi­lity forecasts that because of changing internatio­nal factors and the measures I take, the UK will not now enter a technical recession this year.

What he meant: The economy is going to shrink this year, but it won’t technicall­y be a recession. Technicall­y, good times are here again.

What he said: From 1 August, the duty on draught products in pubs will be up to 11p lower. It’s a differenti­al a Conservati­ve government will maintain as part of a new Brexit Pubs Guarantee.

What he meant: I voted Remain, but if you want a cheap Brexit slogan, this is a tiny tax change that would not be allowed under EU law.

What he said: Madam deputy speaker, I have heard representa­tions from the Sun newspaper about the impact on motorists of the planned 11 pence rise in fuel duty.

What he meant: Government policy is still made by the Mr Toad of the car-owning democracy, Rupert Murdoch. Poop poop!

What he said: Since 2010, we’ve grown more than major countries like France, Italy or Japan, and about the same as Europe’s largest economy, Germany ...

What he meant: The Italian economy is weak; Japan’s has been stagnant for decades; and with France, we got lucky in the choice of start date. So I ǀve you “about the same as Germany” if you look at the numbers through half-closed eyes.

What he said: ... We’ve halved unemployme­nt, we’ve cut inequality, and we’ve reduced the number of workless households by 1 million.

What he meant: Keir Starmer is too busy studying his briefing notes to notice that I have stolen Labour’s best tunes.

What he said: Other parties talk about a green energy revolution, so I gently remind them that nearly 90 per cent of our solar power was installed in the last 13 years, showing it’s the Conservati­ves who fix the roof when the sun is shining.

What he meant: Party political knockabout and centrist dad jokes. What more do you want?

What he said: I want us to have the most pro-business, pro-enterprise tax regime anywhere.

What he meant: I am about to confirm the rise in corporatio­n tax that some of my dimmer colleagues thought I might cancel.

What he said: Even after the corporatio­n tax rise this April, we will have the lowest headline rate in the G7 – lower than any period under the last Labour government.

What he meant: I am not going to cancel the rise in corporatio­n tax. Get real. I need the money.

What he said: Today I can announce we will introduce a new policy of full capital expensing for the next three years ... It is a corporatio­n tax cut worth an average of £9bn a year.

What he meant: I will take with one hand and give back with the other. Starmer won’t understand it, so he won’t know whether to attack me for putting corporatio­n tax up or cutting it.

What he said: I today confirm that, subject to consultati­on, nuclear power will be classed as environmen­tally sustainabl­e, which will give it access to the same investment incentives as renewable energy.

What he meant: Amazing that we haven’t done this before, really, because it might make the daunting economics of nuclear power slightly more palatable.

What he said: I can report to the House that we will launch an AI sandbox to trial new, faster approaches to help innovators get cutting-edge products to market.

What he meant: If we put the artificial intelligen­ce boffins in a children’s sandpit, they will invent chatbots that produce new business jargon without any human input.

What he said: Brexit was a decision by the British people to change our economic model. In that historic vote, our country decided to move from a model based on unlimited low-skilled migration to one based on high wages and high skills.

What he meant: I voted against it because this is simplistic nonsense: leaving the EU will in fact make us all poorer, but somewhat to my surprise I find myself at the ripe old age of 56 in the second most important job in government, so I will tell Leavers what they want to hear.

What he said: Today we publish a white paper on disability benefits reform. It is the biggest change to our welfare system in a decade ... As a result, disabled benefit claimants will always be able to seek work without fear of losing financial support.

What he meant: Disability benefit has been a disaster area for at least 50 years now. Nothing much will change.

What he said: With some exceptions, independen­ce is always better than dependence.

What he meant: A little joke for our Scottish National Party colleagues.

What he said: I don’t want any doctor to retire early because of the way pension taxes work. It’s an issue I’ve discussed not just with the current health secretary, but [with] a former health secretary, who kindly took a break from WhatsAppin­g his colleagues to consider it.

What he meant: A dad joke at Matt Hancock’s expense.

What he said: Some have also asked me to increase the lifetime [pension fund] allowance from its £1m limit. But I’ve decided not to do that; instead I will go further and abolish the lifetime allowance.

What he meant: Under cover of trying to retain NHS doctors, the only surprise in this Budget is a bung to the rich. Fortunatel­y it is complicate­d stuff, so no one will notice.

What he said: Today I want to address an issue in our education system that is bad for children and damaging for the economy.

It’s an issue that starts even before a child enters the gates of a school. Today I want to reform our childcare system.

What he meant: I wanted this to be the big surprise, but it was in all the newspapers last night, so I shall rattle through it and sit down.

What he said: Today, we build for the future. With inflation down, debt falling and growth up, the declinists are wrong and the optimists are right. We stick to the plan because the plan is working, and I commend this statement to the House.

What he meant: Good times are here again. You have read all this in Treasury press releases, pre-announceme­nts, and leaks to journalist­s. Dullness and predictabi­lity are underrated virtues. I am very competent.

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 ?? (UK Par l iament) ?? ‘To my surprise I find myse l f in the second most important job in government’
(UK Par l iament) ‘To my surprise I find myse l f in the second most important job in government’
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