Donald MacLeod: I’ve had my Phil of the Budget being a laughing matter

Chancellor Philip Hammond announces his budget
Chancellor Philip Hammond announces his budget

WHAT is it about the Budget that the Government of the day finds so funny?

It doesn’t seem to matter who is in charge and whether the country is buckled with debt, fighting austerity, recovering from boom and bust or living the dream and overflowing with cash.

Nope, despite the stakes for the UK and its citizens being so obviously high, our great leaders suddenly all want to become comedians.

It was Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond this time, delivering serious statements littered with withering put-downs, bad gags and attacks on the opposition, instead of just clearly spelling out what it all meant to the country.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May and the rest of her sycophantic gaggle eagerly encouraged his clowning around by braying like donkeys at Hammond’s hammy howlers.

Why do they do it? All parties in government, especially on Budget day, are guilty of similar childish behaviour.

We recently had the oh-so-not-funny Brexit brothers of doom, David Cameron and gilded George Osbourne.

They gave us a Budget day music hall routine from hell, a matinee performance only rescued because they had their own wee Punch – Nick Clegg – on hand for them to pull out of their briefcase when George’s performance at the despatch box dipped.

Before that, we had for a time the painful comic capers of the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, Labour’s Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling – or, as I like to call them, door and soor! What a pair of crackers they were.

And before that, of course, we had the hilarious dynamic duo of Tony Blair and his envious apprentice, the then-booming Brown.

They would also never miss a comic trick when it came to rabble-rousing on Budget day.

I just don’t get it. Is a small dose of laughing gas pumped through the parliament’s vents before the big event?

Hamming it up while hammering millions of self-employed was a tasteless and insipid act by Hammond.

He may have the boring, bean-counter nickname of “Spreadsheet Phil” but he shouldn’t be laughing while he spreads misery to all those who will be affected by his tax raid.

Avoiding any mention of Brexit was also a bad joke as was his failure to offer relief and lift thousands of our poorest and least-able out of austerity.

And the whacking up of duty on a bottle of whisky, beer and wine was a very unwanted measure.

He did, though, follow Scotland’s lead and announce cuts and caps totalling £435m which will ease the burden of English business rates on the struggling licensed trade and small live music venues.

That at least brought a smile to my face.

Sadly, though, this Budget will now be remembered for the images of our PM May braying with laughter at Hammond’s “jokes”, looking, as someone tweeted, like “a cat coughing up a hairball” rather than attending to and seriously debating the many contentious issues his Budget contained.