• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Sketch: All bets are off in the house as George's dry delivery leaves punters in a pickle

George Osborne's Budget may have contained good news for some gamblers - but it frustrated many who had taken a punt on the occasion.

From early on there were signs that betters were about to be disappointed.

In a significant blow, former Chancellor Ken Clarke was spotted half an hour before kick-off settling down in the public gallery, instead of on his own party benches.

The Tory frontbencher has been a key figure on Budget days since 2011, when he was infamously photographed appearing to nod off during the Chancellor's statement.

Every year since then he has had to endure the typically hour-long speech sitting perfectly rigid, with his every move scrutinise by onlookers - and bookies.

Yesterday he appeared determined to frustrate them all by sitting on the mezzanine level looking directly at Mr Osborne. He need not have worried.

According to Labour's Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls another Tory minister, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, decided to steal Mr Clarke's thunder, and had to be gently woken by LibDem Business Secretary Vince Cable.

But punters' spirits, no pun intended, were raised when the Chancellor was passed a glass of something just ahead of his statement.

Although the Budget is the only occasion in the parliamentary calendar when an alcoholic tipple is allowed at the Despatch Box, Mr Osborne is famously abstemious. But much money hung on just how many times he decided to take a slug of that water.

Mr Osborne has a notoriously reedy voice when he has to talk for long periods and occasionally during Budget statements it has receded to almost a whisper. Alas for gamblers they were to lose again - he took just one sip during the entire 55-minute speech. He was spurred on throughout by his backbenchers who gave him an enormous cheer as he stood up.

Indeed, the Labour benches looked almost in a stupor as the Chancellor ran through the good financial news in the Budget forecasts (dwelling for a shorter time, of course, on the, ahem, less than good news).

But Labour perked up to roar with laughter as Mr Osborne repeated his claim that we were "all in this together".

And Mr Balls also looked delighted as he heckled the Chancellor during his statement. He had a big smile on his face as he challenged Mr Osborne: "How many years has debt gone up?"

But there were no smiles just minutes later when the Chancellor, as is his wont, decided to share the credit for his Budget. This included naming the architect of the public sector pension changes - the former Labour MP John Hutton.

Also given honourable mentions, to their delight, no doubt, were Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and his party colleague, the Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid. And there were smiles all round on the Tory benches as Mr Osborne announced higher taxes on betting machines but a cut in the duty on bingo.

"House" they shouted at Labour.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

220717