IT’S Budget day again. Chancellor? Rishi Sunak will stand up this afternoon at around 12.30pm to reveal his latest plans for the economy in the midst of this current pandemic.

Another budget? Already?

It’s been a year since the last one actually. The autumn budget was cancelled.

Really? Ach, it’s the dullest day of the news year anyway. People whinging about the rise in the cost of cigarettes and whisky. How dreary.

I’m not sure that’s quite the right attitude. This year’s speech is quite important if you are on furlough or fearing for your job prospects or worried about the country’s huge level of debt.

Fair enough, I’m just worried about the rising cost of cigarettes and whisky. Maybe I need a drink. Can I pour one for the Chancellor while I’m at it?

Well, actually he is allowed. The Chancellor is the only MP who can drink alcohol in the Chamber, though only during the Budget speech. In the past Kenneth Clarke drank whisky when he was giving his budget speech. Geoffrey Howe opted for a gin and tonic. William Ewart Gladstone in the 19th century went for a sherry and beaten egg.

Not all of them take advantage, though. Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and George Osborne all opted for water. As did Mr Sunak last year. But then he is teetotal.

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It’s a day for curious parliamentary customs, I suppose.

Well, yes, there is the red box that the Chancellor keeps his statement in and always proves a handy prop for photographs. For a long time that red box was the same box, the one hand-crafted for Gladstone around 1860. Lined with black satin and covered in red leather, it was used until 1965, when Lord Callaghan opted for a brown valise. Gordon Brown commissioned a new box from four Fife apprentices in Dunfermline when he made his first budget speech in 1997. George Osborne, however, used Gladstone’s box in 2010.

What did chancellors use before Gladstone then?

The tradition was to use a leather bag. Indeed, that’s the origin of the word budget in the first place. It comes from an old French word “bougette” which means “little bag.”

Gladstone is getting a lot of coverage here.

Isn’t he? And he’s also responsible for the longest ever budget speech; a hefty four hours, 45 minutes in 1853. His great political rival Benjamin Disraeli did make a five-hour speech the year before, but he took a break in the middle of it.

I’m still thinking about alcohol. Did all that booze ever lead to ministerial cock-ups?

Well, there have been cock-ups, but they weren’t necessarily alcohol-related. George Ward Hunt turned up at the Commons in 1869 to find that he had left his speech at home. Oops.

Meanwhile, Hugh Dalton leaked key parts of his 1947 budget to a reporter only to have news of his plans to put a penny on a pint of beer and a tax on dog racing appear in the paper before he had revealed them in his speech. Dalton resigned the following day. The odds are against the current Chancellor having to do the same.