Chancellor Rishi Sunak explains why he snubbed ‘ironic’ dispatch box tradition in Budget

Budget 2021: Sunak announces changes to alcohol duties

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After delivering his third Budget to the House of Commons, Rishi Sunak, 41, sat down with Oliver Dowden, 43, for a 32-minute chat about the Chancellor’s announcement. But Mr Sunak, who became Chancellor just under five years after he first entered Parliament in 2015, also revealed to the Conservative Party chairman the reason why he snubbed a longstanding Budget Day tradition.

According to Parliament’s website, Chancellor’s are awarded the Budget Day luxury of enjoying an alcoholic beverage while unveiling their economic agenda.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham, 81, was the last occupant of Number 11 to partake in the tradition.

He served as John Major’s Chancellor from 1993 to 1997 and was partial to a whisky on Budget Day.

Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe, both Chancellor’s under Mrs Thatcher, also opted to have an alcoholic beverage.

Mr Lawson preferred a spritzer but Mr Howe chose to sip on a gin and tonic.

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Perhaps the two most surprising choices come from William Gladstone and Hugh Gaitskell.

Mr Gladstone, who delivered the longest uninterrupted Budget speech with a 285-minute performance, would wet his whistle with sherry and beaten egg.

Mr Gaitskell, Labour’s unapologetically Eurosceptic Chancellor from 1950 to 1951, instead went for a glass of rum and orange.

But Sunak – similarly to Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Philip Hammond – has opted to stick with water.

Sunak’s immediate predecessor, the current Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was removed from Number 11 just before delivering his maiden Budget.

During his discussion with Mr Dowden, the Chancellor said: “I don’t know what the rules are because you’re allowed alcohol when you do these Budget speeches, which as you said for me as a teetotaller doesn’t help.

“I’m not actually entirely sure if you’re allowed other soft drinks, I’ve never asked the question.”

It could be expected Mr Sunak would opt to have a glass of Coca-Cola instead of water after the usually cool, calm and collected Chancellor made a memorable gaffe regarding the soft drink brand.

Speaking to two schoolboys, he said his preference for Coca-Cola over Pepsi made him a “total coke addict”.

After a brief pause, he clarified by saying: “Coca-Cola addict. Just for the record. Just to be totally clear. I am a Coca-Cola addict. I have seven fillings to show for it.”

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But in his chat with the Tory Party chairman, the Leave-voting MP for Richmond (Yorks) also explained how the talk about alcohol was “ironic” as he also announced a mass overhaul of Brexit Britain’s previously “out-of-date” alcohol regime.

“Now that we’ve left the EU, we have the freedom to have a much more rational system that’s simpler, fairer and actually healthier,” the Chancellor said.

He added: “But, as you said, a bit ironic as a teetotal Chancellor.”

While a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom could not implement drought relief measures for British pubs.

After delivering his hour-long speech, the Chancellor was spotted being mobbed by merry pub-goers at the SW1 watering hole the Two Chairmen.

Under the Chancellor’s new plan, pints of Carling, Fosters, San Miguel, Guinness and even Stella Artois will see a 3p tax cut from February 2023.

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