Treasury Questions: Chancellor Hunt Will Never Have To Do A Chicken Run mdi-fullscreen

The fact is, it’s very hard to dislike Jeremy Hunt. But should we not try harder? Go the extra mile? Do the thing that one does with chancellors?

It’s not clear the effort-to-reward ratio would be favorable – but in trying to do the right thing, is there anything respectably sketchlike one can say about him?

He has the quick, bright-eyed look of a sort of rooster, there is that. He also has the gentle touch, the calm, almost the serenity of a caponised rooster.

Are these negatives? Don’t they actually work for him at the despatch box? The brutal sketchwriting fact is that he is an attractive presence. He has an ease born of experience, complete job security, and no ambition. Such is the advantage of a defined, two-year commission that ends with a general election. He is undertaking his task with calm, quiet authority and a splash of humour, as assassins, snipers and CIA operatives do when they’re brought out of retirement for that one last mission.

“Stability first, growth second,” he said. That comfortable position will be his through his time-limited tenure at the top of the pecking order.

His shadow Rachel Reeves resisted the winsomeness.  She told him we were 38th out of 38 in terms of developed  nations’ ranking and an abject failure in every economic category. He replied that it was “A pleasure to do my first questions with her.” This courtliness caused an audible hiss from the higher authorities – this was the patronizing patriarchy in human form. He went on to say that we were actually in top three of something else with the lowest unemployment for 40 years. This was mansplaining of a high order and he smiled as he did it.

Labour’s rebranding, or detoxification or slow motion relaunch is quietly picking up pace. Their MPs were following Tory talking points about the desirability of lower business rates (Emma Hardy), the pernicious effects of inflation (Chris Bryant), and the merits of home ownership (Tall Toby Perkins).

Pat McFadden, a Shadow Treasury minister, stepped up for a double banger question starting with:

“[Thursday] will be the third budget statement in two months, from the fourth chancellor since the summer, presided over by the fifth prime minister in six years.”

McFadden has a fine sense of language but this level of elegance is unusual in Treasury questions. Alas, his second barrel went off a bit in his face. Noting the Tory habit of nicking Labour policies (energy cap, windfall tax) he suggested a mortgage guarantee scheme to protect first-time buyers from negative equity. Andrew Griffith agreed it was a good idea – so good they had already done it. Was it true? Opinions will vary. It sounded true, which does just as well, until the next time.

Greg Smith has a short, sharp solution to the fiscal black hole: chuck HS2 into it. And Kit Malthouse told his front bench that they were in hock to the Office of Budget Responsibility – and the one thing everyone knows about the OBR is that they are “always wrong.”

Rather than contradict his hon. Friend, our Chancellor partially agreed with the bulk of what Malthouse said but that the OBR were less wrong than most others of their sort. What an amiable capon he is. 

mdi-timer November 15 2022 @ 15:19 mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer
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