Donald Macintyre's Sketch: George Osborne’s lame pun takes Balls-baiting to a new level
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Tuesday 28 January 2014
Revelling in the latest growth figures, George Osborne lifted Balls-baiting to a new plane. He was asked an unusually long list of super-friendly questions by euphoric Tory backbenchers. Ones that in the secret dreams of the MPs involved, invite the answer: “Yes. My honourable friend has absolutely hit the nail on the head with that spiffing question correctly mentioning our long-term economic plan, allowing me to lay into the Opposition, and qualifying him for early promotion.”
Aidan Burley – braving the Commons after a further unwelcome weekend report that he brought the groom an SS uniform to wear at his Alpine stag party a couple of years ago – celebrated the fall in unemployment in his Cannock Chase constituency.
But Andrew Jones’s was a classic: he asked the Chancellor to “agree that the anti-business rhetoric and measures” of “some” (shorthand for Eds Balls and Miliband) would “destroy that progress”.
To this, Osborne replied: “By being anti-business, they are anti-recovery, anti-jobs, anti-investment and anti-the British people.” Heavens! Not quite Churchill’s “Gestapo” gibe at Labour in the 1945 election. But a bit over-the-top to label a freeze on energy prices and a 50p top rate tax rate as the work of a treacherous fifth column.
This was just a warm-up. So emotionally charged is Treasury Questions that a certain light-headedness sets in at times.
Labour’s Barry Sheerman promised the Chancellor to welcome improvements in the economy “if he stops blaming the whole economic world meltdown on the previous Labour government”. Osborne said this was “the first time in years” Sheerman had defended Gordon Brown. Sheerman laughed long and merrily, rather confirming the accuracy of Osborne’s remark.
But this did not deflect Osborne from reciting a list of Balls’ gloom-laden predictions about the economy – confounded, as the Chancellor saw it, by the news on growth – before producing the day’s most excruciating pun, popular as it was on the Tory benches. “He has been wrong on all these things. What the Opposition need are new crystal balls.” A sardonic Balls retorted acidly: “Very good, Chancellor – a joke about my name being Balls. Fabulous.”
So not the easiest day for the shadow Treasury team. But Balls is too experienced not to clutch at a passing raft. And it was that “the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London are now saying that they want to cut the top rate of income tax again, to 40p”. Not quite accurate in Cameron’s case, since he ducked the question on Monday. But that wasn’t the point, which was to demand: “Come on, George – stand up and rule it out.” Something Osborne’s long answer denouncing Labour’s 50p top rate omitted to do. Which means we will be hearing more of this unless and until he does.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...