You could normally rely on the Labour leader to fail to rise to the big occasion and replying to a budget that even those who wrote it haven’t fully understood was one of the toughest gigs in Westminster. George settled in for the car crash. That never came. Dressed in a sharp new suit, Corbyn delivered one of his sharpest performances yet in the Commons.
“This budget is the culmination of six years of failure,” he began, his voice angry with intent. Even a few of his many enemies on the Labour benches began to look up and pay attention. Corbyn pressed on. His speech didn’t always bear much relation to anything George had actually said – he hadn’t been listening when the chancellor was talking about small business – and it did sometimes feel as if he was reading it for the first time, but the unfamiliar can sometimes create a feeling of immediacy.
Then something unprecedented happened. Corbyn made a gag. Or read one out that someone else had written.“This government has built 12 homes in Ebbsfleet for every government press release,” he said. “We need more press releases.” People laughed. Not at him, but with him. George’s day had unexpectedly just gone from bad to worse.