Kwarteng throws Britain on a sacrificial altar of Trussonomics where only bankers win | John Crace

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Kwasi Kwarteng. What a guy! Monday put the fun into the funeral with a few gags in Westminster Abbey. On Friday, he will introduce the shower into fiscal policy as well an event – we’d call it a budget if it weren’t for the fact that the Chancellor had gone to great lengths to ensure the Office for Budget Responsibility couldn’t provide any figures to fact-check his finances – it was so loud and wild we may never see that. another. To infinity and beyond! A mini-budget that was anything but mini.

Casino faith-based economics that he would bet the bank on. The biggest tax distribution – primarily to the rich – in 50 years, at the same time as government borrowing has risen to record levels. Time was when Labor used to get it in the neck for costless public borrowing. This is how it is now for the last month.

All you have to do now is believe and everything will be OK. It is the new economy for Brexit Britain. You want growth, you get growth. And if you don’t then it will be everyone else’s fault for talking Britain down. The country has just been turned into a laboratory experiment for a plan devised by the right wing Department of Economics. Kwarteng thinks. Primarily in himself. His confidence is remarkable for a man of relatively ordinary talents. One who had always managed with a few tight words. Who could talk the talk but had never been asked to walk the walk. Now was his time to stand up. To throw the country on the sacrificial altar and cross fingers, he had not blown it. To boldly go where no man had gone before. Mainly because it was so obviously disastrous.

Some Tories had the grace to look embarrassed, but not Librium Liz.
Some Tories had the grace to look embarrassed, but not Librium Liz. Photo: Jessica Taylor/AP

But this is the brave new world of Trussonomics. It’s like turning on all the faucets at once and being surprised when you flood the house.

The commons were still packed, but this was no ordinary budget statement. There were no flourishes, no long build-up to how brilliant the government had been. And no loud cheers from the Tory benches. Most MPs looked sick. Worrying even. Not sure how to sell this latest Tory iteration to their constituents. Half the personal tax cuts going to the richest 5% may not be quite the policy to win the hearts and minds of “red wall” voters.

Kwarteng went straight to work. So much to announce, so little time to do it. The tax was too high! Growth was too low! The government had allowed the economy to stagnate. He wasn’t sure what the government had been for the past 12 years, but he and Librium Liz had certainly played no part in it. Which was strange, as most of us could remember that they had both been ministers who had voted for measures they were now about to discard. And who had repeatedly made a point of highlighting the dangers of national debt.

Like Truss, Kwasi is a tabula rasa. Free to reinvent himself, free of the past. “We are at the beginning of a new era,” he said. Oddly enough, he even sounded like he believed it. That people are really ready to forgive and forget. To consider this government as year zero instead of the continuation of the many failures that preceded it. No one else in the room seemed to share this view. Some Tories had the grace to look embarrassed. Librium Liz just looked blank. Then she does it often. Maybe she couldn’t quite accept that she got away with it either.

The chancellor moved on to the funds. At first it was a lot more loans. He couldn’t say how much. And it would be rude to ask. So to deregulation. It must be easier to treat workers worse. After all, if people weren’t earning enough, it was entirely their own fault that they didn’t have a better paying job. And what about the poor bankers? They had been unable to afford their second home while their bonuses had been capped. Time to free the Goldman Sachs elite.

Then Kwarteng came to treasure. There was way too much of it. If he had his way, no one would pay a penny. It would be up to anyone to either sink or swim. There were far too many people idling and relying on schools and the NHS. But he could not bring himself to lower the tax entirely. So he just wanted to do it for the better off. Because that was obviously the fair thing to do.

This was a budget without moral purpose. Even Boris Johnson hadn’t sunk that low. It has become something, as Kwarteng now finds himself lower on the ethical balance for The Convict. Even if it’s all a piece. Every time you think the government couldn’t possibly sink any lower, it finds new, creative ways to do it.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves gave a decent response – her highlight was throwing the six previous failed Tory growth plans over the despatch box and asking why the new one should be better – but she lacked a bit of edge. Almost as if her whole speech had been pre-written and she was unable to understand how ruthless the Tories were. A little more ad-libbing wouldn’t have gone amiss.

For the Tories, only John Redwood and Richard Drax were entirely enthusiastic. It was all their wet dreams come at once. Others, such as Mel Stride and John Glen, were openly skeptical. Of Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove there was no sign. They are now non-human. Long before the end, all Tory MPs had melted away and Kwarteng was left to answer questions from opposition backbenchers.

The chancellor looked increasingly lost and lonely. His confidence had definitely taken a hit over the last two and a half hours. Not least because the markets had reacted to his mini-budget with a resounding thumbs down. Not even Kwasi could quite convince himself now that he knew something no other financial analyst did. Although give him a day or so…

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