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Emergency budget: George's big day

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 22 June 2010

As George Osborne stood up, he gripped the dispatch box as tightly as a contestant in Deal or No Deal and announced this was "the unavoidable budget", writes broadcaster Peter McHugh.

Demonstrators hold up improvised face masks after George Osborne presented his first budget (credit:Reuters)

On BBC 1 they were showing Cash in the Attic and on BBC 2 they were showing the sequel No Cash in the Country.

It was George's big day and everyone was getting over excited. You could tell it was really important because Huw Edwards had turned up to translate it into Welsh.

Down at the Commons they had decided in the best vaudeville traditions to have a warm up act called Deputy Prime Ministers questions.

The first questions the opposition asked was who was this bloke called Mark who appeared to be answering. Had there been a coup? Had the one called Nick gone?

Actually Nick was hiding behind Mark, wisely unwilling to show himself to the mob. They were waiting for the main course but were quite happy to graze on the leader of the Lib Dems till George turned up. But romance remains and just as you thought Nick might end up on the spit roast his partner Dave slipped reassuringly onto the bench next to him.

And so the stage was set and as if on cue the door to No 11 creaked open and the guilty men, and the token woman appeared.

George, as befitted his chief defendant status, was out in front clutching a battered once red briefcase which chancellors for years have used to take their sandwiches to work. He held it in front if him like a matador looking for a bull.

More from Channel 4 News on the budget:
Gary Gibbon: now we know how bad the pain ahead will be
- 'The low paid will bear the brunt'
- Public sector pay freeze
- Osborne's 'tough but fair' budget
- The challenge for George Osborne
- Welfare benefits cut
- City reaction

Back at the Commons the Speaker was trying to climb down from his very high chair to carry out the obscure parliamentary tradition of apparently going missing during any budget debate.

A man with a northern accent announced "the Chancellor of the Exchequer" and George stood up. He gripped the dispatch box as tightly as a contestant in Deal or No Deal and announced this was "the unavoidable budget", which was a relief to those new MP's who clearly weren't certain they were in the right place.

As he started to speak the cunning plan became clear, Tory ministers had turned up early to claim all those seats out of the firing line. The only places left were each side of him and they had been left for Lib Dem Nick and Lib Dem Danny (he's the one who has told his mam he's chief secretary to the Treasury).

"When we say we are all in this together, we mean it," said George as his flankers nodded guiltily.

He was well into his stride now, pausing for the occasional drink from the glass beside him.

It's a parliamentary tradition that the chancellor is allowed his own budget tipple for the speech. One has to assume bottled devil's brew is on sale at the Commons offy.

Whatever it was George was really enjoying himself.

He paid credit to his Right Honorable friend the business secretary and Vince Cable smiled weakly.

He asked after prudence, a long time favourite attendee at these budget functions but she was long gone, last seen on a most wanted poster north of the border.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the opposition as he stuffed a brace of Huttons down their throats - Will to sort out pay and John to sort out pensions.

When he put VAT up to 20 per cent you felt the mob might storm the barricades, Nick looked as is he suddenly had wind.

This was the budget of a "progressive alliance" crowed George, stealing the very words Labour had used to try to woo the Lib Dems. Nick mouthed thank you to Dave as George paid them off with an increase in personal tax rates.

It was like no budget ever before; as George put up the taxes the government benches cheered as if they had forgotten whose side he was on.

Stick with us, he said, and the sunlit uplands will be just around the corner though probably a bit further away if you live north of Milton Keynes (and lets bet he's revolving in his grave just now).

Suddenly it was over, his voice had not cracked much, he hadn't crushed the Dispatch Box and Dave popped out from behind his back to give him what passes for a hug at English public schools. Even Nick gave him a rictus grin and Danny still looked astonished to be sitting there.

As befits the cradle of democracy, the speech attacking the first budget of a boy educated at St Paul's public school in London came from a girl educated at St Paul's public school in London.

With prudence long gone it was left to Harriet Harman to lead Labour out if the mists of forgetfulness into the world where everything that happened yesterday was nothing to do with them.

Peter McHugh

Sitting mute was Liam Byrne, former holder of Danny’s job and the man who left the letter in the Treasury which read "I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left."

At last a politician who told the truth.

Peter McHugh is the former director of programmes at GMTV and was this year awarded the Royal Television Society Lifetime Achievement Award.

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