From the diary of Rishi Sunak, Britain’s most fiscally responsible prime minister
HE had one job. Slip a massive bung to the rich while concealing it beneath waffly childcare promises that won’t come in until Starmer. ‘Did I do well?’ he asks.
‘No,’ I explain, ‘you did not do well, Jeremy. The headlines are “giveaway for the one per cent” and “pots for the rich”. It did not go unnoticed.’
I quite like Hunt. It’s nice to have a member of my cabinet I can look down on. We both know I’d be a far better chancellor and he’d be far happier on the backbenches, but he was catapulted into a role he’s manifestly unsuitable for due to a temporary vacuum. Essentially the right-wing Corbyn.
I’d dictated the budget to him and hoped we’d get away with the pensions. After all, what’s wrong with tempting a few consultants back into hospitals? While giving bankers a tax-free way to award themselves £60 million in a pension to be collected from the age of 35?
But his delivery, up there in the Commons staring like a crazed emu at an oncoming 18-wheeler, left a lot to be desired. He had no idea what he was saying or why he was saying it, and it showed.
‘They liked the childcare!’ he adds, brightly, as if it’s news. ‘I know they did, Jeremy. That’s why it was in there. As a smokescreen. So they wouldn’t notice the bung to donors and the income tax rises.’
‘Still,’ I continue, ‘at least it wasn’t a Boris budget. Crashing in at midnight with a bottle of Chablis in one hand and a list of giveaways in the other. I wasted a full hour dealing with “HS2 to Belfast”.’
I look up, and realise I’ve messed up. Say ‘Boris’ around Jeremy and he goes rigid and his fists start to clench. Trauma from 2019 apparently. I carefully manoeuvre him into a cupboard where he can calm down.
No growth, high taxes, a load of childcare that won’t ever be delivered. It’s a shit budget. But oddly cheering, because for the first time in years it’s not my shit budget.