Handbags at dawn: George declares war

AT SOME point during his Budget response yesterday, Ed Miliband inquired as to “what planet the chancellor is on”.

It turns out that George is on a planet where it’s surprising when the mob goes crazy over policies that cut taxes on rich people, steal candy from babies and go to war with Gillian Duffies.

“But, but!” George said. “The electrification of the trans-Pennine railways! The information age!”

Welcome to George’s world: life science labs popping up like mushrooms, electric trains whizzing by, video game geeks elbowing Chinese factory workers out of the fast lane. For those for whom “enterprise zones” and “national loans” aren’t enough, he launched “enterprise loans”.

What a splendid vision. The parliamentary clerks wielded their Pritt sticks manically. George could barely contain his smugness as hysterical applause gripped the government benches, the Liberal Democrats shaking their order papers like ladies waving handkerchiefs aboard the Titanic.

But every brave new world has its seedy underbelly. How could he not have foreseen the threat posed by the chain-smoking, hot chicken-guzzling grannies in fleets of company cars?

Perhaps he thought he had out-manoeuvred them with his frenzied briefing. One by one every measure was leaked – this one to please Nick Clegg, that one for the Tory base, another for Boris.

“Is there anything you haven’t leaked?” staunch Labourite Robert Flello bawled from the backbenches.

And yet the glut of transparency only served to make the glaring sore on the Budget scorecard all the more obvious. “Simplification,” the line read innocently. “Age-related allowances.” £3.3bn stolen from granny at a stroke.

In how few words did our chancellor lose his moral credibility. There was no honest argument about the looming pensions crisis or the hit to the richest generation in history. With small words and large numbers, George declared war on behalf of Britain’s debt-saddled youth.

But the grannies will pick the weapon: handbags at dawn.