Simon Carr:

The Sketch: Cameron's jokes fell flat – Darling's hit the target

The thing about these Tories is, they're amateurs. It's why we like them

Share
Related Topics

He did well to be giving a Budget at all; none of his lot wanted one. Maybe that's why he made that odd little remark recently about No10 having unleashed "the forces of hell" on him. It was a frank warning to the PM that, if bitten, he'd bite back.

So, there he was and good for him. We all like Alistair now, especially with the alternatives we could see, seething on their front benches.

Where were we? At the crossroads. We're always at a crossroads before an election. One way leads to poverty, misery and depression, and the other leads to prosperity and joy. Which way should we go? It's a poser, all right.

While we're chewing that one over, you should know that history was made. It was the funniest Budget statement ever. The element of surprise will always favour Alistair Darling in this regard. Like finding something funny in Punch, as we used to say. Mind you, it was about politics rather than economics, and that will always help.

He told the House that some property tax was going to be lightened, and the Tories cheered like billy-oh because that was their idea. But then he said they'd pay for it by increasing the same property tax on the rich. How Labour roared and waved.

He seemed to be about to admit some fault in his pension forecasts and got the Tories to make that "Ahhhh!" of suspicious surprise. But then his next sentence started with a "However" and Labour were able to "roar with laughter" back at them.

Then there was the cider tax; that made everyone laugh. Especially as he said he was going to "change the definition of cider" (to include chardonnay. And washing powder).

But it was the talk of tax havens that got them into their best mood. At the first mention, Labour started chanting, "Ashcroft! Ashcroft!". And the Tories responded by chanting, "Lord Paul! Lord Paul!". It's a wisdom-of-crowds thing. Darling had his finale coming. Tax loopholes were being closed, he said. Tax agreements had been made with various countries, including with three new ones. Everyone knew what was coming. "The Dominican Republic," he said, and Labour hugged itself with suppressed excitement. "Grenada," he said and Labour crossed its legs. "And Belize!" Labour failed to contain itself.

Actually, some Tories had the poise to laugh at themselves. And their leader showed us one of his attractive qualities: he blushed.

Cameron's reply had funny jokes, but because he has a sense of humour, none were as good as the Chancellor's dull ones. That's not a good omen.

He said that Gordon Brown's offer to fix the economy was like the captain of the Titanic offering to captain the lifeboats. And that the PM would never get a medal for courage but most of his Cabinet get mentioned in dispatches. And then a rather slicing quote from Gordon to some bankers' gathering, "What you did for financial services were going to do for the British economy!".

He reprised the jibes and jabs of the past five years. The biggest bust ever, the biggest debts, the biggest mess. "No one has thought of the question to which the answer is five more years of Gordon Brown."

It didn't quite hit the spot, did it? The thing about these Tories is, they're amateurs. It's why we like them. But in a pro-am game, played without handicaps, the professionals win.

And what about the substance of it? Cut now or cut later?

Again, it's not an economic argument. People who like high public spending say high public spending is the answer. And people who prefer low public spending say the opposite. Each side rallies experts to support it. Each side has cogent historical examples, and accuse opponents of "economic illiteracy".

At least we can produce one infallible literacy lesson from this Budget: when you added up all his figures they spell out the words Vote For Me!

twitter.com/simonsketch

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence