Runner: George Osborne outside Parliament. You won't see him inside that building today.

Runner: George Osborne outside Parliament. You won’t see him inside that building today.

All we need now is for the Tories to slip out a bit of bad news in the hope that nobody’s watching.

(So let’s all keep an eye on the government’s ‘announcements’ website: https://www.gov.uk/government/announcements )

The further Budget disintegration constitutes two climbdowns – the Conservative Government will not oppose a Labour amendment to block a rise in VAT on solar panels, nor will it fight a Labour amendment to end the so-called ‘tampon tax’ when MPs vote on the Budget (or perhaps that should be if they vote on it).

The decision means the UK will have to negotiate the changes with the European Union as they mean this country will be reneging on previous agreements with that organisation.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has been granted permission to ask an Urgent Question in Parliament regarding the Budget this afternoon (March 21). The move was intended to draw George Osborne out of hiding but it seems this has already been deflected by the Tories; Treasury git David Gauke will be providing the answer as Gideon is far too busy working out how he’ll wind up the Budget debate tomorrow evening (March 22).

This is the first time a Chancellor has done this since the 1990s and is a clear sign of cowardice on Osborne’s part today. He is too scared to face his critics.

Finally, here’s a point of interest thrown out by the government. In a desperate attempt to fight claims that the Budget is regressive because it helps the rich more than the poor, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said top earners are paying a higher proportion of Income Tax. Apparently the top one per cent of earners now pay 28 per cent of the total Income Tax take.

Where it all falls down, of course, is in what the Conservatives have been doing to make this statistic happen. They have been raising the threshold at which lower earners pay Income Tax for the last five years and this, coupled with the long-term stagnation in lower-paid earnings, means far fewer people are paying tax at all. Meanwhile, higher earners have enjoyed huge tax breaks as well.

So the bigger picture may be that, accounting for inflation, higher earners are paying much less in real terms – the actual amount has fallen – while the proportion has increased.

It’s exactly the kind of statistical legerdemain that we have come to expect from a Tory Government that will say anything to save itself from embarrassment.

Will that help on a day like today?

Doubtful.

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