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GIMSON Andrew Krieg

Osborne triumphant! He trampled his enemies and sounded as boastful, as intellectually confident, as Nigel Lawson in his pomp.

We are, the Chancellor assured us, on course for a Budget surplus! Statistics from the Office for Budget Responsibility were scattered so liberally, and in a manner so favourable to himself, that one wondered whether its initials actually stand for Osborne Booster Rocket.

But that would be unfair to its head, Robert Chote. The boosterism here was all the Chancellor’s own work.

He was flanked by David Cameron and Theresa May. At the start of his speech, their faces looked, in repose, not just tired (as well they might be after almost six years in office), but also sad, as if they were reflecting on private sorrows of which the world knows nothing.

Osborne set about the task of cheering them up. He declared that thanks to “the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom”, he is able to help out the North Sea oil industry. How the Prime Minister beamed at the Scottish Nationalists as the Chancellor pointed out that they would never have been able to provide this assistance, had Scotland voted for independence.

And pretty much everyone enjoyed his sally at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. The Chancellor said their pensions expert, Steve Webb, thought the lump sum was going to be abolished, “instead of which we’re going to keep the lump sum and abolish the Liberal Democrats”.

Even Tim Farron, the leader of that shrunken party, seemed to find this amusing, perhaps because for once the Government was at least referring to the Liberal Democrats.

Eurosceptics will not have enjoyed Osborne’s portentous warning that the OBR’s forecasts “are predicated on remaining in the EU”. But almost all Conservatives will have been delighted by the various tax cuts he announced.

Andrew Tyrie (Con, Chichester), who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, said he expects the reduction in corporation tax to 17 per cent will raise more revenue, and also welcomed, “as the son of a shopkeeper”, the various measures to help small businesses.

But Tyrie said there is a lot of detail for his committee to examine, and would not of course confirm, in the meantime, that the Chancellor’s figures add up.

Every so often, a still, small voice of doubt whispered a question in one’s ear. Is Osborne giving way to hubris? Do we see him at the height of his powers, from which he is now fated to descend? He himself made some cautionary remarks about the “dangerous cocktail of risks” facing the economy.

Today, however, the Chancellor was a commanding figure, and Jeremy Corbyn, replying for the Opposition, had no idea how to spoil things for him.

12 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s Budget sketch: Osborne sounded as boastful as Lawson in his pomp

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