Sketch: Meat-free Budget provides little nourishment

“Economic policy does not exist in a vacuum,” said Chancellor Philip Hammond, but for most of his Budget speech it felt like he was talking into one, writes Alex Turner.

A laden, scripted gag about “it’s not called the last Labour Government for nothing” was as good as the first half got. Even the packed Tory benches couldn’t raise much more than a chuckle.

The screen cut to the member for Tatton, with George Osborne – instinctively seeing into the TV director’s mind – raised an eyebrow, when the current Chancellor referenced his immediate predecessor.

While memories of Osborne’s Budgets past can be overshadowed by the mess that was the pasty tax, we were left waiting for some meat to appear in Hammond’s 2017 offering. Alas, it was to prove to be in association with Quorn.

Mid-term Budgets are rarely dramatic, and with his hands mostly tied by lack of money in the bank and lack of clarity about the future, Hammond set out for this to be as undramatic as possible.

In that, at least, it was a resounding success.

The greatest surprise was that Hammond managed to stretch his statement out to 55 minutes.

There was time though to slip in a contorted Stephen Hawking-related joke at the expense of the Labour Party leader sat opposite.

He said: “Jeremy Corbyn is now so far down a black hole that even Stephen Hawking has disowned him”.

It’s not the only thing that appeared to be missing. His Budget document comes in at around 24,500 words – a huge 41,000 words fewer than Osborne’s final Budget.

Thin gruel for the Budget vegetarians.

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