Elizabeth Fournier
YESTERDAY’S budget saw George Osborne depart from a 150-year-old tradition, when he debuted a brand new red dispatch box for his journey from Downing Street to the Treasury.

The battered briefcase touted by almost every chancellor since 1860 was made for William Gladstone, and only James Callaghan and Gordon Brown have diversified since, the latter famously carrying his speech in a bag made by local craftsmen from his constituency.

With Gladstone’s bag officially retired by the National Archives, speculation ahead of the budget was rife as to what Osborne would deem a worthy replacement. Would he plump for a trendy man bag or designer briefcase from SamCam’s Smythson line?

But Osborne chose to stick with tradition, flaunting an almost identical (if considerably fresher looking) bag in the customary red.

The bag was commissioned by the National Archive as an homage to Gladstone’s original, and “hand-made using traditional techniques and materials by a team of experts including carpenters, bookbinders, and engravers”, according to the Archive’s press office.

Eagle-eyed observers will spot one crucial difference though – the monogram has been updated from VR to ERII to reflect the change in monarchy.

ASIDE from the iconic red bag, Gladstone left another legacy following his time in Parliament – the record for the longest budget speech ever, running to four hours and 45 minutes in April 1853.

Luckily for today’s MPs, Osborne’s effort yesterday didn’t come close – he spoke for just 56.5 minutes before handing the floor to Ed Miliband.

The length of his speech was just one of several light-hearted budget punts run by spread betting firm Sporting Index yesterday, which also offered odds on the number of times Osborne would utter the word tax during his speech.

Unlucky Sporting Index took quite a hit on its moderate spread of 76-80 times, as Osborne dropped the T word an impressive 95 times in less than an hour.

It was also stung by his need for vocal lubrication – despite an estimate that he would take just three sips of water during the speech, Osborne’s eight mouthfuls (right) will see the firm paying out to a large number of happy gamblers.

BOOKIES were also forking out on a slightly more embarrassing budget bet yesterday, after Ladbrokes offered odds of 16/1 on justice secretary Ken Clarke falling asleep during the budget speech (above).

Though Clarke’s office was quick to issue a denial of the claim, Ladbrokes said that the fact that Ed Miliband drew attention to Clarke’s nap in his budget response was enough for them.

However, punters that bet on Osborne wearing a purple tie can expect a much lower payment – his indigo silk was a conservative choice with odds of just 2/1.

Harriet Dennys is away.