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Red box blues

07 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Steve Davis. Photo Martin Rulsch is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt (R). Photo Victoria Jones, PA Images

Ben Wildsmith

The snooker player Steve Davis was once asked about the animosity he had been subject to from Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins.

‘Let me stop you there,’ he interrupted. ‘I owe my life to Alex; I won’t hear a word against him.’

‘Really?’ the interviewer gasped.

‘Yes, I was leaving the theatre after a match and three men set upon me in the alley. They were kicking me to pieces and if Alex hadn’t come along and said, “That’s enough, boys,” I’m not sure I’d have survived.’

That was pretty much the scenario yesterday in the Commons as Jeremy ‘Interesting’ Hunt gifted us all another National Insurance cut, out of the goodness of his heart.

You’ll be shocked to learn that this pre-election magnanimity comes with some small print. Whilst we will all be cashed-up next month – I’ll be spending mine on the world’s most expensive commodity: olive oil – frozen tax thresholds mean that the deal would shame a Benidorm timeshare salesman.

Essentially, it will feel slightly better until the election, and then Mrs. W. will be back to cooking with axle grease I’ve scraped off the neighbour’s car.

Great unwashed

What I like about election giveaways is how we, the great unwashed, suddenly become ‘hardworking Brits’ who deserve a treat.

Previously work-shy, unproductive extremists, we’re now the apple of the government’s eye. We should ‘keep more of our own money’, apparently, perhaps to spend on private healthcare. Because, frustratingly, having an election does not, as you might infer from today’s proceedings, automatically refund public services to functionality.

Hunt, apparently, went for a 17-mile run this morning to warm up for his speech. Are there people who are impressed by this sort of caper? When Chancellors of old used to lean, exhausted, against the despatch box swigging on whisky, it projected the appropriate air of post-imperial degeneracy.

They knew we were finished, we knew it, and the optics told us what to expect. Attempting to inhabit a go-getting persona in the ruins of the UK as it is now looks faintly ludicrous.


Trying to come off like the mutant offspring of Rimmer off Red Dwarf and Paula Radcliffe would be awkward at the best of times, but when your budget includes explicit bribes for pension funds to invest in the country you’ve been running for the last 14 years it’s, frankly, tragic.

The government, as a whole, has reached divorced-dad depths of ingratiating desperation.


‘Yes my darling Electorate…’

‘Mam’s new boyfriend is going to abolish non-dom tax status and use the money to fund the NHS.’

‘Is he, now? Well, how about your real dad abolishes it and gets you a PlayStation?’

Mind you, imagine being introduced to Keir Starmer as your new stepdad. I’ve just injured myself shuddering.


I bang on a lot about democracy being under threat, reason being that we seem to be relinquishing it so meekly. If politicians want to persist as a thing, then announcing frivolous and misleading tax cuts to a soundtrack of braying nonentities isn’t helping their case.

Do you imagine the investment funds that called time on Kwasi Kwarteng’s plans present their own budgets in a package that includes crap jokes and ham-fisted bribes? We’d be forgiven for wondering if we’d be better off cutting out the middlemen and handing governance to our masters directly.

I listened to the budget in the car, after failing to persuade a young man with ADHD and post-traumatic stress that he should wait 10 hours in A&E to have his head injury scanned.

He wasn’t having it; just gave up on the system and went home.

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1 month ago

If your young man has been prescribed medication for his ADHD he’d find it very hard to come by in many parts of the UK. Invisible citizens with invisible illnesses and disabilities didn’t get much of a look-in, this budget time, although I may have imagined some mention of more pharmaceutical production here in future, and less reliance on imports. Yeah, right.

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
1 month ago
Reply to  TBLM1957

more great british pharmaceutical production, with none of that EU red tape about having to be “safe” or “proven to be more effective than placebo”. don’t worry, there will be plenty prisoners to test it on. or we could make it a condition for claiming benefits.

1 month ago

The tories are desperate, but everything, no matter how transparent will fall on deaf ears. The question is how badly will they do at the general election, badly, very badly or catastrophically bad(ly)?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Many people feel totally rejected by the current Westminster system. Where’s the hope of something new once the Tories are booted out, and they will be no matter how much they (pretend) to give us? The Labour party conference, last year, voted for electoral change, scrapping FPTP, but we’ve heard nothing since. Why ? Because – the party won’t scrap it – it benefits them too much. Unless we change the voting system nothing will change. Multi party cooperation (a by-product of PR) would mean fresh ideas and parties having to work together to find common ground – much needed.… Read more »

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