He proposed changes to social security motivated less by the need to save money than by the urge to show how tough this government could be. From now on, jobseekers will have to sign on every week. Those who can't speak English will have to learn or lose their benefits. Most striking of all, the newly laid off will not be able to claim benefit straight away but have to wait seven days. That may not sound like much, but for those who have just lost a job that paid little, it could be impossible.
No wonder the BBC's Robert Peston called it a Wonga budget: there will be plenty who will survive that first week by taking out a loan at usurious rates.
Such punitive action will have next to no impact on the deficit. It's all about the politics. Osborne has drawn a line and invited Labour to stand on the other side of it.It may be clever but it is also mean-spirited. It comes from a politician without the faintest notion of what it is like to become unemployed and without the faintest inclination to find out.