What are the parties' plans then for the half-a-trillion-plus they're going to spend next year? Agreement has finally broken out in the Commons. The two-party system has produced unity.
The Tories "have absolutely nothing to offer" (©Gordon Brown) and Labour "offers absolutely nothing" (©David Cameron). Tories and Labour describe each other in terms of total unanimity as "Wrong, wrong, wrong." It's the progressive consensus they're always talking about.
Occasionally, a shade of difference remains to be reconciled, or harmonised. The Tories are the party of 10 per cent cuts (©Labour) and Labour are the party of 9 per cent cuts (©leaked Treasury documents). If it's a deal breaker, I can send them a cheque for the difference.
Some Tories in the Budget debate yesterday tried to make something of the fact that "freezing personal allowances" was hitting the poor hardest. But their front bench treated this as something to be waved away. The reason may be that whenever they get into an argument with Labour, they lose it.
For instance, the inheritance tax proposal. It was originally George Osborne's idea; consensual Labour adopted it as their own. But then they said George's tax was designed only to help just 3,000 millionaires.
The Sketch's rough research shows about 4m houses getting some benefit – maybe 8 or 10 million people. The Tories never summoned the disruptive power, the self-certifying aggression, the philosophical vitality to make their disagreement felt.
The "moral case for low taxation" was never made. The packaged set of Tory values, aspirations and policies have all the formal structure of Tracey Emin's bed.
The Budget debate is an opportunity to drive a stampede of cattle through the Government's proposals. In the usual thought experiment, imagine Brown and Balls handed a 3.7 per cent stealth tax on the country's poorest. How the bulls would run through that!
George calling them "pathetic" wasn't quite the answer: faffing about with white cider shouldn't have been there in the first two minutes, and to have fallen into a complicated exchange on the date of "uprating allowances" – that was a disaster for the rhythm and timing and wallop of a proper speech.
Yvette Cooper put in a bravura performance. I fractionally preferred her Angry Teacher to her Disappointed Mother, but both had the advantage on George's impression of Lord Castlereagh's student years.
There's no practical alternative to him. Hague would be the thing and George could go and renegotiate the treaty of Vienna. But it isn't happening any time soon.
Fair play, he has improved. Five years ago when asked how the abatement thresholds might be varied through the cycle, he would have said: "I've absolutely no idea who you are."Reuse content