Five things we learned as Rishi Sunak delivered his Budget

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds his ministerial ‘Red Box’ as he stands with his ministerial team and parliamentary private secretaries, outside 11 Downing Street (PA) (PA Wire)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds his ministerial ‘Red Box’ as he stands with his ministerial team and parliamentary private secretaries, outside 11 Downing Street (PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak has set out his plans for a “new economy” – although much of what was in the Budget was familiar to anyone who had read a newspaper, skimmed social media or listened to a radio bulletin over the past week.

Here are some things we learned:

– Sir Keir Starmer was forced into self-isolation.

The Labour leader tested positive for Covid-19, meaning late replacements had to be found for Prime Minister’s Questions and the Budget response.

Former leader Ed Miliband stood in to take on Boris Johnson, while shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves took on the job of replying to the Budget, normally one of the toughest tasks facing an Opposition leader.

– The Chancellor was given a dressing down.

Deputy Commons Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing, who by tradition chairs the Budget session, set out her displeasure at how much of the Chancellor’s statement had already been made public.

She said it was a matter of “courtesy to this House” and she hopes “we do not find ourselves in this position again at future Budgets”.

– The people’s flag is deepest red.

Mr Sunak managed to both bolster Brexit-supporting Tories and poke fun at the Labour left as he set out new shipping measures.

The Chancellor, who announced plans to increase the number of vessels sailing under the red ensign, said: “I’m sure the Opposition will be delighted that red flags are still flying somewhere in this country, even if they are all at sea.”

– A historic Budget.

“The Chancellor has raised taxes by more this year than in any single year since Norman Lamont and Ken Clarke’s two 1993 Budgets in the aftermath of Black Wednesday,” according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

But you have to look even further back to find a time when the overall tax burden was so high. According to the watchdog, the 36.2% of the economy it will reach in 2026-27 is the “highest level since late in Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour government in the early 1950s”.

– Let’s raise a glass to that.

Mr Sunak, a teetotaller more partial to a can of Coke than a flute of Moet, promised to cut tax on bubbly as part of a wider shake-up of alcohol duties.

Alcohol duties will be reformed, resulting in a cut in the tax on sparkling wine (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)
Alcohol duties will be reformed, resulting in a cut in the tax on sparkling wine (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)

“Over the last decade, consumption of sparkling wines like prosecco has doubled. English sparkling wine alone has increased almost tenfold,” he said.

“It’s clear they are no longer the preserve of wealthy elites.”

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