Budget 2013: Deputy Speaker wins big as Osborne sinks in Twitter storm

aat comment

This week’s Budget 2013 was dominated by the Chancellor’s decision to launch on Twitter, only to be bitten by the social network’s ubiquity when the Evening Standard tweeted details of his speech before he delivered it. Steven Perryman reviews a taxing week for the Chancellor – and finds an unlikely hero in Lindsay Hoyle

Chancellor learns the perils of Twitter the hard way

Do MPs never learn? It’s only a week since this very column bemoaned the travails of MPs getting their knickers in a twist on Twitter. Last week we had David Lammy confusing ancient customs for racism, last summer Aidan Burley going against popular opinion in uncouth fashion and even Ed Miliband managed to confuse 80’s game show Blockbusters for a quiz on skin colour.

With this in mind, George Osborne’s decision to enter the world of Twitter on Budget day with a picture of himself at his desk seemed desperate and ill-advised at best, and quickly led to the Photoshopped consequences it asked for.

At least he still had his speech to deliver, right? Yes, but with cruel irony the London newspaper Evening Standard got a little trigger happy by tweeting a picture of its front page – which showed many of the points the Chancellor was to raise in his speech – before he had even opened his red box. It was a faux pas the opposition leapt on with relish, waving photocopies of the front page as he delivered the speech.

Budget 2013: beer drinkers can spend a penny

Even though, thanks to the Evening Standard leak, we all knew what he was about to say, the Chancellor ploughed on. Among the measures he introduced were:

£3bn in new government investment spending

– £11bn in under-spending by government departments

– a 1p cut in beer tax and a cancelled 3p tax rise on fuel

– funding for 15,000 new affordable homes

– the corporate tax rate is to fall to 20%

A full 1p off of beer? Even the most hardened of drinkers will struggle to save more than pennies for a rainy day with that crowd-pleasing attempt. But a £3bn investment is at least one ‘green shoot’, right? Well, yes – until you read the smallprint (which you always should). That nugget of positivity will be reviewed in June this year, so don’t hold your breath on that one, either.

Budget 2013: Deputy Speaker an unlikely hero

The reaction to the Budget is always as entertaining as the speech itself, of course. It was interesting to see Ed Miliband take up the mantle for the opposition this time round. Did Ed Balls’s stuttering response to the Autumn Statement in December see him benched like Wayne Rooney in a Champions League tie?

Either way, Miliband (who has c200,000 Twitter followers to Osborne’s c33,000) couldn’t resist an attack based in the Twittershphere, suggesting the hashtag  #downgradedchancellor should start trending (it did, worldwide). It seems to be a barb that touched a nerve, with the Chancellor going on to challenge Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, to a popularity contest on the social networking site the day after. What next? A game of conkers?

We can be thankful, then, for Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle (a man with just 800 Twitter followers, but who surely deserves more) for treating such playground behaviour with the disdain it deserved on the day itself. Most of the reaction to the speech has centred on Hoyle, who won praise for overseeing the speech with a performance The Guardian’s Simon Hoggart  described as ‘a cross between Toscanini and the MC of the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club’.

Budget 2013: a sketchwriters dream

Hoyle, inevitably, was centre of attention to the nation’s sketch writers. On his dressing down of the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail observed:

‘Mr Balls, so accustomed to being given free rein by Brother Bercow, looked pop-eyed – a pug that had swallowed a bee. He spent the next ten minutes crossing and uncrossing his legs, Kenny Everett-style, a moue on his chops.’

Other gems included:

– ‘”The likelihood of meeting the supplementary debt target has deteriorated,” he (the Chancellor) said, in the manner of one who has just discovered that his vintage claret has been diluted with castor oil.’ – Simon Hoggart in The Guardian

– ‘As ever on these occasions, Mr Osborne’s voice rasped and croaked; indeed, it first showed signs of giving out after only two and a half minutes. (The Office of Budget Responsibility had forecast 35.)’ – Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph

– ‘Or, to quote its spokesman: “This time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires!’ – Michael Deacon on the OBR’s hyperbolic budgetary forecasts.

Which is an interesting, but not unfounded, analogy from popular wheeler dealer sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Perhaps the Chancellor does just lick his finger, stick it in the air and hope everything will be alright.

Whether there are any clocks in the garage remains to be seen.

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

Related articles