Budget black hole will still have to be filled

The great French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord allegedly said, on hearing of the death of a Turkish ambassador, ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’.

Much the same was asked when Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, dramatically resigned over the budget.

Whatever his motives, it led to a frantic rush to save the budget and involved the abandonment, for now at least, of cuts to personal independence payments, payable to millions of disabled people.

Significantly, the change came after an effective campaign which saw constituents’ emails filling up MPs’ inboxes. The ship was only steadied when George Osborne spoke in the debate, an unprecedented step.

At the heart of the issue was the unfairness of cutting benefits for some disabled people while paying for it by cutting capital gains tax for some of the richest.

The Government might have saved the day, but it now has a £4.4bn black hole in its budget to be filled.

In the interests of balance, I will praise the Chancellor for listening to calls to cut taxes on North Sea oil and gas, where the price of oil is crippling the industry.

Both Mary Glindon, MP for Wallsend, and I spoke in a Parliamentary debate just before the budget as part of a cross-party campaign to help the industry.

The Chancellor should get credit for listening.

He probably wishes he’d listened more to Iain Duncan Smith.