OK, Sunak. I see what you did there. Froze the ridiculous amount of duty on fuel and alcohol, for which many thanks.
But then, when nobody was looking, shoved up the price of cigarettes again.
Rishi Sunak’s first Budget as Chancellor was in large part directed at battling coronavirus[/caption]
And I bet it will be dressed up as a health initiative, supposedly designed to stop mugs like me smoking.
Except that drinking is every bit as injurious to the health as smoking, so you won’t be allowed to get away with that.
Can’t you find something different to whack a tax on?
Something really socially undesirable?
Such as cats, for example. Or fully grown adults wearing replica football shirts? (We don’t do that down The Den.)
Or better still, bottled water — the real environmental scandal of our time.
But cigarettes aside, Rishi Sunak’s first Budget as Chancellor ticked all the right boxes.
In parts, quite a lot of parts, it sounded like a moderate Labour Budget.
By which I don’t mean the kind of thing the wretched John McDonnell might have delivered — free unicorns for the poor and all people who earn money to be shot etc.
I mean the Labour Party when it had an ounce of common sense.
There was good populist stuff in there, especially the pledge to mend the potholes.
I can’t be the only bloke who has had to fork out for a new tyre because of a hole in the road the size of the Isle of Wight.
‘Spend spend spend’ was at the heart of the Chancellor’s budget and he pledged support for the NHS no matter what[/caption]
A lot of the Budget was, reasonably enough, directed at battling coronavirus.
Help for businesses and sick pay for those who miss work and wouldn’t normally get it. And pretty much a blank cheque for the NHS.
All of this was necessary, but it meant that much of the good stuff in the Budget got overlooked a little.
This Government was brought to power by the votes of former Labour supporters in the North and (especially) the North East.
Parts of the country which, in the past, Conservative governments have left to rot.
It took a lot to get those people to vote Tory — and they won’t do it again if there isn’t substantial investment in infra-structure for our northern towns and cities.
The Chancellor addressed this. He announced a massive increase in capital spending.
Some £600billion will be spent investing in infrastructure.
That’s the highest level in real terms since Clement Attlee’s excellent Labour government 70 years ago.
We don’t know where it’s all going yet.
If it gets swallowed up by the largely daft HS2 rail scheme, that will be a mistake.
The Bank of England made a surprise interest rate cut in a bid to stimulate the economy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak[/caption]
Sunak, though, knows the North East. He knows we need big investment to make these places attractive to business and to those who might move there.
He knows too that we need to disperse high-paying jobs to the regions.
So there’s going to be a new economic campus in the North and 22,000 civil service jobs moved from the capital to the regions.
Excellent. This is what Boris Johnson means by “levelling up”.
For too long London and the rest of the UK have been effectively two separate countries.
So, the cigarettes apart, this was a fine Budget which should reassure those new Conservative voters that this government WILL look after their interests.
And the latest opinion polls? Tories on 50 per cent.
Labour way down on even its pathetic election share.
So far, Boris and Rishi have not put a foot wrong.
But here in the North we’re still watching, gentle-men. And hoping this is just a start.
MEANWHILE, over in Moscow, Vladimir Putin has been very busy.
Fiddling with the constitution to ensure that he can remain president until . . . 2036.
Vladimir Putin has been trying to find ways to remain president until 2036[/caption]
That means he will have been president of his country longer than that chap he quite admires, Joseph Stalin.
And will be 83 years old when he finally stands down.
If he does stand down then.
Beware the gray matter
THE Russkies and the jihadis will be quaking in their boots. The Prime Minister has just appointed Chris Grayling head of the important Intelligence and Security Committee.
This is possibly the first time in living memory that the words “Chris Grayling” and “intelligence” have been used together in a sentence.
Chris Grayling has been appointed head of the Intelligence and Security Committee after presiding over a string of botched initiatives as a minister[/caption]
Unless it was with a qualifying clause such as “hasn’t got very much”.
The poor bloke has presided over a string of botched initiatives as a minister.
I wouldn’t wish to be rude, but my suspicion is that a plaster garden ornament – a gnome with a fishing pole, or a heron – would do the job better.
Soft-ply in the heads
LOOK, I get the corona- virus-prepping thing.
The hoarding of non-perishable food items, such as crates of Jack Daniel’s and tinned pies. You can’t be too careful.
People’s first thought on hearing news of the coronavirus threat has been to load up on toilet paper[/caption]
I suppose I also understand people buying hand sanitiser – as if it had suddenly occurred to them that having clean hands might be a good idea.
But what’s with the toilet paper? Is that really your first thought at a time of crisis? And the amount of the stuff people are buying!
Lordy, if that’s how many rolls they need, I think Covid-19 is the least of their worries.
It’ll be the same when Armageddon comes, when the nukes are flying hither and thither.
All the supermarkets will be stripped of vanilla-scented soft ply.
“If I’m going to meet my maker, I will do so with a very clean arse.”
Meanwhile, visitors to Buckfast Abbey in Devon are furious that no holy water is available for them to drink from.
They usually keep a bucket, or something, of the stuff outside the front door. It’s blessed by the monks, I think.
Anyway they’ve discontinued the practice for a while to prevent the spread of this singularly annoying virus.
And people are saying – well, if it’s holy, it can’t possibly be tainted with flu virus, can it?
There’s one born every minute, isn’t there?
Labour mad to axe Trev
THE Labour Party is continuing its long and exciting journey from being a government in waiting to being a small organisation for the terminally deranged.
Their latest act has been to suspend the last remaining sane member of the party, the excellent Trevor Phillips.
He’s a lifelong campaigner against racism – but has been suspended for being Islamophobic.
He has never been remotely Islamophobic.
If Phillips had been leading the Labour Party at the last election, we’d probably have a Labour government now.
Instead, it was led by a rabble of anti-Semitic, far-left loons obsessed with identity politics and Palestine.
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I’M still not sure we’re doing the proper coronavirus checks on people flying back from their bloody skiing holidays in Italy.
There are reports of many passengers receiving no checks at all.
Surely anyone who has been to Italy should have been advised long ago to self-isolate – and inform the authorities if they feel poorly.
I think we will regret not having done this.
Well done British Airways for cancelling all flights to Italy. But will the checks be done on people travelling home by train?
It all seems terribly haphazard. I seem to remember mentioning this two weeks ago – and look where we are now.
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