The chancellor appears on every front page – either holding the traditional red box containing his Budget; or pulling pints at a south London brewery with his boss, Boris Johnson.
‘The drinks are on us!’, proclaims the Daily Mail, after Rishi Sunak cut duty on a pint of draught beer by 3p.
Both it and the Guardian call it a “spend now, cut taxes later” plan.
There are “cheers” too from the Metro and the Daily Express, with the latter concluding that the chancellor is on a “moral” mission to cut taxes.
But the Daily Mirror fears it is “champagne for the rich”, and “real pain for the poor”, accusing him of failing to tackle the cost of living.
“Hey, big spenders”, declares the Daily Telegraph, which says spending is back at 1970s levels, while the Times and the i both note that Britain faces its highest tax burden since the 1950s.
A sketch in the Guardian describes the Budget as more of a hostage video than “Brand Rishi’s big plan”. His teeth had been whitened for the “numerous photo opportunities”, it says, but his heart just was not in it.
The paper imagines “Boris Bertie Booster” ripping up 90% of the original speech, before telling Mr Sunak he had “hardly spent a thing” and handing him an entirely new one.
“People who say this is not a proper Tory government may have a point,” writes Quentin Letts in the Times, who’s bemused by the way Conservative backbenchers cheered rises in the cost of “full-bottomed clarets” as heartily as cuts in the price of rosé and Asti spumante. “Pink wine?,” he asks, “Tory grandees used to scorn it as Chateau Mouthwash for home counties hairdressers”.
A former Tory chancellor, Norman Lamont, tells the Mail it was “The Two Rishis Show” – one expansive, exhilarated, and leading us to the Promised Land; the other, fiscally responsible, and wanting to take away the PM’s credit card.
Mr Sunak “flagged his distaste as he spent like a sailor”, writes Robert Shrimsley in the FT. But the chancellor did make one “stand for his beliefs”, he argues, by sticking with his £6bn cut to the Universal Credit uplift – then reforming it with changes that will cost just over a third of that sum.
A cartoon in the Times shows Mr Sunak and his New Labour predecessor, Gordon Brown, standing separately outside Number 11 as gradually they morph into one another.
“The Tories’ nightmare conversion to Brownism will end in catastrophe”, warns Allister Heath in the Telegraph, saying: “Staggering tax rises and reckless spending weren’t forced on Sunak by Covid: they were an active choice”.
The Sun’s leader column agrees. “First Covid,” it says, “now there’s an ‘epidemic’ of government spending”.
But for the Guardian the sums being spent are not enough. The hidden economics of this budget can be “found in the small print”, it argues, as “most of the extra money for public services disappears in two years’ time”.
Finally, the Mail reports that John Lewis has been forced to pull what it describes as a “woke” insurance advert, starring a boy in a dress rampaging around his house – after the watchdog found it misleading and confusing. The Financial Conduct Authority, it says, ruled the ad did not make clear the home contents product covered only accidental – and not deliberate – damage.