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18 March 2015

Did George Osborne’s bad Budget jokes just cost the taxpayer £41m?

In an attempt to woo the public with his stand-up comedy – and despite the precarious national finances – George Osborne just wasted a lot on poor jokes. 

By Ashley Cowburn

The Budget was bland, with a smattering of terrible jokes. Here’s a recap of the Chancellor’s gags, and how much they cost him:

Agincourt – £1m

“We could not let the 600th anniversary of Agincourt pass without commemoration,” said the Chancellor. “The battle of Agincourt is, of course, celebrated by Shakespeare as a victory secured by a ‘band of brothers’, which is sadly not an option available to the party opposite.

“It is also when a strong leader defeated an ill-judged alliance between the champion of a united Europe and a renegade force of Scottish nationalists.

“So it’s well worth the £1m we will provide to celebrate it.”

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It appears the Chancellor set aside £1m and space in his Budget speech to tease the Miliband brothers and the SNP. Hilariously pricey.

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The Internet of Things – £40m

The Chancellor announced: “And we’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things!”

He added: “This is the next stage in the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances. So should – to use a ridiculous example – someone have two kitchens, they will be able to control both fridges from the same mobile phone.”

In the Treasury’s 124-page Budget report, it says that £40m will be put aside for “demonstrator programmes, business incubator space and a research hub to develop applications for the Internet of Things technologies in healthcare and social care, and Smart Cities”.

Did Osborne just spend £40m at the expense of Ed Miliband’s kitchen woes? It appears so.

Cracking down on deeds of variation – cost unknown

We don’t have a price for this one, as it is under review, but Osborne appears to be seeking to close an inheritance tax loophole in a dig aimed at the Labour leader: “We will conduct a review on the avoidance of inheritance tax through the use of deeds of variation. It will report by the autumn.” 

Miliband was recently accused of attempting to dodge inheritance tax by using a deed of variation to his father’s will that moved ownership of some of the family home into his and his brother’s names.

Total: £41m