The Sketch: Left and Right havecompletely lost the plot

Why is the Right ring-fencing the vast collectivity of the NHS budget?
  • @SimonSketch

H ow confusing it all is. Ed Balls on the left of Treasury questions was arguing for people on £80,000 to get a taxpayer subsidy for having children. Shouldn't he be saying the opposite? Christopher Chope on the right wants more child benefit for all, but shouldn't he be saying the opposite too? And why was the Left wanting tax cuts – on fuel, VAT, income? Have they stopped believing in the superior morality of higher tax? And why is the right ring-fencing the vast collectivity of the NHS budget? A five per cent cut across the board would sort out the deficit without anyone noticing. But why do we think they know any more than we do?

Linda Riordan said that unemployment had doubled because of Government cuts. How does she know? Eric Ollerenshawe lamented the North/South divide and how it had grown under Labour ("Shame! Disgrace!" Nadhim Zahawi spluttered). There was a righteous call for higher-paid jobs in manufacturing. Mark Lazarowiz grieved for 250 jobs going from the RBS to India. People say these things, but there again, consider two facts from the weekend – slumdog shacks in Mumbai have been sold for £100,000. The average price of houses in the North East of England is less than that. The future may be unknowable, but it's coming at us faster than ever.

An MP then quoted the Financial Times headline: "What if George Osborne is right?" And that struck the chamber as interesting. You could tell from their reaction that not even Tories had taken it seriously before. It's a real what-if and we can only wait for the answer.

PS: Ed Miliband had made a big pre-Budget speech calling for patriotic purchasing. This was treated with such respect that it wasn't mentioned at all, by Tories or by Labour.