Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:50 pm on 21st March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Brian Sedgemore Mr Brian Sedgemore , Hackney South and Shoreditch 7:50 pm, 21st March 1988

I was reading in a satirical magazine over the weekend that the Government have set up groups of WOMBATS — working ministerial breakfast action teams—to justify the Budget in the face of the stinging criticism that it has received.

Being a reasonable person, I begin by complimenting the Chancellor. I believe that it required courage to introduce this Budget and that he needed nerves of steel and extraordinary moral and spiritual resources to do so much for so few in return for so little. The Chancellor has come through his ordeal, pleased and smiling, and worshipped and revered by the gawping, grasping, privileged, avaricious, salivating super-rich. Moaning minnies, puritans, the poor and those whose bootstraps have let them down did not like the Budget, but they must realise that the Chancellor's world has passed them by and that their pathetic cries, "Stop the globe, I want to get of", will no longer be heard.

For the few, the Budget was much more than a spring tonic. For those of us who like to live vicariously, it was one for fantasies and dreams. For all of us, it has presaged a world in which we can get rid of that wretched quality of empathy—the idea that it is possible for a human being to put himself in the position of another. After this Budget, other people simply do not count.

In the real world of the City — next door to the forgotten wastes of Hackney—they like the Budget, and why not? I ask my hon. Friends to stop cavilling about it. All right, there may be a balance of payments crisis and the forecast deficit of £4 billion may turn out to be £8 billion, but let us look on the bright side.

Yes, when the Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and said that Britain was becoming a filthy, squalid and rundown country with a crumbling infrastructure because of lack of investment, that might have been true, but we should have a sense of proportion. In a super-binge society the comforts of the day are bound to be far more important than the problems of tomorrow. I dare say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) was right when he said that a few babies may die because of want of treatment in the National Health Service as a result of the Budget.

However, I am bound to ask my hon. Friends to attempt to comprehend the sheer exquisite delight that the Budget has given to a few very important people. For them, I agree that the Budget has been messianic. It will change people's lives. I give my hon. Friends three examples——