The chancellor’s budget was meant to make us feel good. Give it a closer look, though, and his pledges ring hollow
Two very different budgets were unveiled yesterday afternoon. They concerned the same country and the same economy, and were delivered by the same chancellor. They were the same coin, but each face was implacably opposed to the other.
You might call the first “heads we win” – and boy, was it a triumph. Chancellor Rishi Sunak stood up in the Commons and laid out boast after joke after strapline. His was a budget for “the age of optimism”, he declared, creating an economy of “higher wages, higher skills … vibrant communities and safer streets”. He listed spending pledges and ran off an itinerary of northern towns about to get building projects. To a house used to grim economic news and tax hikes, it felt like golden sun peeping out from behind black clouds.
Aditya Chakrabortty is a Guardian columnist