Budget 2015: George Osborne's hilarious comedy routine
It's always particularly painful when a politician has a stab at being funny. So during George Osborne's Budget Speech, there was even more pain than usual, as he made several ill-considered attempts at humour. His awkward and laboured gags had the MPs rolling in the aisles, while the rest of the country quietly put their heads in their hands.
Last year, Osborne used the anniversary of the Magna Carta to mock Ed Miliband for beating his brother David in the race to be Labour Leader. This year he used a reference to commemorating the Battle of Agincourt to do something similar. He told the Commons: "We could not let the 600th anniversary of Agincourt pass without commemoration. Now 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."
The question is just how far you can get through the joke without losing the will to live. And if you do, whether you start to wonder whether Osborne's pledge to spend £1 million commemorating the battle was purely so he could shoehorn the gag into his speech.
It wasn't just Miliband who was the butt of Osborne's jokes. When he revealed that the toll charge on the Severn Bridge to Wales would be falling for 'white van drivers', he added a jibe at Harriet Harman, saying that pink vans would benefit from the change too. This was a reference to the pink battle van she is using on the campaign trail. She hoped the van would help the Labour party connect with women, but it was quickly derided on social media as 'patronising' and 'sexist'.
By the next hilarious joke, Miliband was back in the firing line. This time Osborne was announcing a review on a common technique for avoiding inheritance tax known as a Deed of Variation. This is where everyone affected by someone's will sits down and agrees to make changes to it so that less inheritance tax is payable.
Why was this funny? Osborne then made a thinly veiled reference to the fact that the Milibands had used this approach after Ed Miliband's father died. He said the government would draw on a wide variety of opinions, including those of the Leader of the Opposition. It's a brave man who draws on the death of someone's father for humour, especially with a joke so signposted that the groans started well before he delivered the punchline.
And finally, he fell back on a tired 'two kitchens' joke. In talking about the Internet of Things he said: "To use a completely ridiculous example, someone who had two kitchens could control both fridges from the same mobile phone."
The joke had the horrible feel of having been added in at the last minute by a couple of overgrown private school boys who turned to one another and said: "Come on, we have to be able to squeeze the two kitchens in somewhere - it doesn't really matter where."
The only person laughing is likely to be the punter playing budget buzzword bingo with Ladbrokes, who made £20,000 when the joke triggered a win.
It didn't help that David Cameron had tried the same gag during Prime Minister's Questions. First he tried, "I can see the Shadow Chancellor chuckling. We know the Shadow Chancellor wants to be in the kitchen cabinet, he just doesn't know which kitchen to turn up to." Then he went with: "His boss threw both his kitchen sinks at the NHS and he still couldn't win."
Perhaps it comes as a comfort to Osborne to know that at least Cameron isn't funny either.
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