This is the third Budget to which Jeremy Corbyn has responded as Labour leader, but it is the first since he became the self-styled ‘Prime Minister in waiting’. June’s General Election fundamentally altered the fortunes of the leaders of our two main political parties, to such a degree that a few weeks ago we witnessed the surreal sight of the left-wing Labour leader receiving arguably a warmer response at the CBI annual conference than the Tory Prime Minister.
In his response today, Corbyn stuck to familiar themes as he branded Hammond’s Budget “an advertisement for just how out of touch this Government is with the reality of people’s lives”. He highlighted that wages and living standards are being revised down, the poorest tenth of households will lose a substantially greater proportion of their income than the riches by 2022, the number of rough sleepers has doubled and in some parts of the country, life expectancy is beginning to fall. These lines of attack fit well with Corbyn’s chosen mantra of building a country that ‘works for the many not the few’.
The OBR forecasts hand Labour another potent weapon however and Corbyn seized on these immediately: GDP growth, productivity and business investment have all been revised down. On the deficit in particular, Labour will enjoy a strong feeling of schadenfreude. The 2010 General Election was fought largely on the issue of deficit reduction, with the Conservatives pledging to have eliminated the deficit by 2015. Here we are seven and a half years later and it looks like it’ll be another seven and a half years before the deficit is gone.
As his political fortunes have improved, so too have many of Corbyn’s performances at the despatch box. While today’s may not go down as the most polished piece of Parliamentary oratory ever delivered, it was an effective performance nevertheless, chastising the Government for a string of broken promises and missed targets.
The Opposition leader never makes the headlines on Budget day – for good or bad it is always the Chancellor’s day in the sun. It will be in the days and weeks ahead that Corbyn, John McDonnell and co will look to press home their message that this is a government that is failing even on its own terms. Unlike before the General Election, they can expect to get a hearing for this message. Some day, they may even get the chance to deliver a Budget of their own.
You can read Cicero’s full summary and analysis here.
Main image from Chatham House – https://www.flickr.com/photos/chathamhouse/