It’s a tough crowd, the House of Commons.
But Chancellor Philip Hammond approached his Autumn Budget with the confidence of a seasoned stand-up, attempting a series of jokes and riffs with all the enthusiasm of a comic seeking a Netflix special.
But, at least according to the peanut gallery, many of the gags failed to land. Judge for yourself ....
Straight Out The Gate With Some Nostalgia
“I’m sure like me, many members of the House keenly remember the last Budget delivered on a Monday… it was 1962…I was 6 years old… tensions between Russia and the United States were rising... and a former Foreign Secretary turned Chancellor… delivered a Budget amid Cabinet revolt.
“And I remember my parents turning to me and saying: Philip, that could be you one day.”
“Some were hoping for a December budget,” he pondered. “I am sure the headline writers were ready with: ‘Spreadsheet Phil Turns Santa Claus’.
“Others were desperate for it to be on Wednesday: ‘Hammo House Of Horrors’ perhaps.
“But the truth is, by choosing today, rather than Wednesday, I have not avoided the blood-curdling threats, the anguished wailing, and the strange banging of furniture that is usually associated with Wednesday ...
″…I have kindly been invited to a special meeting of the 1922 committee this evening.”
That’s right, a punch-line that requires a working knowledge of an obscure backbench committee of Tory MPs and the day of the week they meet.
Hammond even came up with his own nickname, which isn’t really how nicknames work.
“Both our fiscal rules met,” he boasted. “Both of them three years early. So, Mr Deputy Speaker: ‘Fiscal Phil Says: Fiscal Rules OK’.”
Some Dark Comedy?
Something a little less end-of-the-pier, perhaps.
Actually, it was “I too can poach a rabbit every now and again” – a reference to a long-standing Chancellor trick of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Possibly.
Some Toilet Humour
If in doubt, go for the lowest common denominator.
Hammond mused: “I am pleased to announce a new mandatory business rates relief for public lavatories … so that local authorities can, at last, relieve themselves.”
“For the convenience of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker ...”
Make it stop.
″…and without wishing to get unduly bogged down in this subject…”
″…the House will be interested to know (heckles) well at least I am demonstrating that we are all British.”
Hammond promised an extension of the local newspaper discount for one year, a move to help the ailing local press.
The Chancellor went on: “Whatever the national press says, I’ve been assured of a warm welcome for my budget from the Royston Crow and the Keswick Reminder.”
I think the punchline is the odd names of these newspapers.
An Expensive Joke
Hammond announced an extra £10m to fight fly-tipping, but there was a twist at the expense of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s recent fall.
He quipped: “The Shadow Chancellor’s recent accident has reminded us all how dangerous abandoned waste can be so I will provide £10m to deal with abandoned waste sites – although I can’t guarantee to the House that £10m is going to be enough to stop him falling flat on his face in the future.”
And One At His Expense
Ah, the heckle.
Hammond: “I will confirm... at the Budget next year.”
Labour MP: “You won’t be here!”
There were roars of laughter.
Fair play to Hammond, who pointed out the joke had been made two years ago, and last year ...