HENRY DEEDES: Kapow! Boy Wonder Rishi Sunak returns to splurge another £10bn… making an Elton John shopping trip look like a visit to Poundland
The Boy Wonder returns! Rishi Sunak came bouncing back into Parliament yesterday, which these days can mean only one thing. Another splurge of Government cash to make Sir Elton John’s last shoe-shopping trip look like a trip to Poundland.
Mr Sunak had been summoned from his Whitehall batcave by his opposite number Anneliese Dodds to update the House on the Government’s furloughing scheme. Last time he unveiled emergency economic measures, he did so at a Downing Street press briefing. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle were nowt too ’appy.
As ever, Rishi arrived at the despatch box looking like a member of a sixth-form debating society: taut suit, skinny tie, hair moussed with a top stylist’s precision. There seemed genuine surprise around the chamber when it was announced he was celebrating his 40th birthday.
For all the Chancellor’s youth, confidence remains in rich supply. He announced his furloughing scheme had been a ‘world-leading economic intervention, supporting livelihoods and protecting futures’.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the furlough scheme will be extended until October
He reckoned he had saved 7.5million jobs and over a million employers had benefitted.
For a moment I thought he might give us a little matador’s bow.
Then, with one bang of his fist into an open palm, he announced he would be extending the scheme until October.
Kapow! At that moment, I’m not sure what was more shocking – that the Government was forking out another £10billion or that it expected this saga to roll on until then. Labour’s Dodds, who was appearing via videolink, looked pained.
It’s possible she thought the Government had planned to reduce the scheme, in which case she could have given her ex-Goldman Sachs opponent a kicking.
Instead, she said she would have to look over Sunak’s proposals ‘very carefully’. She brought up reports which claimed the Government felt people needed to be ‘weaned off their addiction’ to the scheme.
Rishi coolly denied having anything to do with this. ‘People believe in the dignity of their work,’ he haughtily opined, as if the mere idea that some people might enjoy being paid to sit at home was gratuitously offensive. Around the House, his announcement was met largely with relief.
Prime minister Boris Johnson was snapped arriving back in Downing Street clutching his dog Dylan on Tuesday morning
Steve Brine (Con, Winchester) declared it ‘excellent birthday work’. James Daly (Con, Bury N) was so grateful I thought he might start genuflecting. Even Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion) was vaguely supportive, not something I’ve seen from her before.
She did, though, want reassurances for the tourist industry, suggesting businesses be given VAT exemptions. The Isle of Wight’s Bob Seely (Con) expressed similar worries, saying the ‘Festival Isle’ had been ‘devastated’ by the lack of tourism.
As he was sitting in his garden, I couldn’t help notice Seeley enjoys what estate agents like to term ‘spectacular views’ over the Solent. There were half a dozen queries about what could be done to aid the aviation industry: all of them, Sunak will have noted, from Conservative seats reliant on the sector.
Andrew Griffith, whose Arundel & South Downs constituency is in close proximity to Gatwick Airport, suggested passenger duty be waived temporarily.
He also wondered, sensibly, why people entering the country couldn’t just be tested at airports rather spending two weeks in quarantine.
Rishi Sunak reportedly displeased the House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle when he launched the government’s furlough scheme at a press conference
Sunak insisted the Department for Transport was mulling this over. The Chancellor’s most telling response came when Mark Harper (Con, Forest of Dean) asked whether businesses should expect any more money after October.
Sunak said the furloughing scheme was ‘not something that could be continued indefinitely’ and was ‘very expensive’.
Which, as understatements go, is a bit like saying Roger Federer is ‘very good’ at tennis.
The subtext was a clear as cut glass. We can’t go on splashing money like this for ever.
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