Sketch from the press gallery: Philip Hammond and the ghost of Chancellors past...and Ed Balls
- Credit: PA
Expectations that Chancellor Philip Hammond's first big outing in the House of Commons would be a box office event were low.
But he quickly dispelled thoughts that this year's Autumn Statement would be a joke-free zone, by doing what all good Chancellors do - making Boris Johnson the butt of one of his barbs at the outset.
While a little clumsy on his delivery he got some laughs when he self-deprecatingly admitted that his style would be different to that of his predecessor.
'I suspect that I will prove no more adept at pulling rabbits from hats than my successor as foreign secretary has been at retrieving balls from the back of scrums,' he said in a nod to the former London Mayor's previous claim that if the ball came loose from the scrum it would be great to have a go at the top job.
Mr Hammond's was an Autumn Statement which was delivered in the shadow of Chancellors past.
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He had the ghostly figure of George Osborne, flanked by veteran money man Ken Clarke, behind him.
But it was not just former Chancellor's who loomed large in the consciousness. The departed former shadow chancellor also made it into the final cut of his speech.
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It was only a matter of time before Ed Balls was mentioned - he has made it into every fiscal statement both before and after life as an MP.
Mr Hammond wanted to know if current shadow chancellor John McDonnell could dance after telling MPs had managed to outdo even Ed Balls 'in the fiscally-incontinent stakes' in the run up to Autumn Statement day.
Tory politicians remain obsessed with Mr Balls, baffled and envious at his transition from pantomime villian to national treasure. But as the Chancellor came to the end of dolling out (or rather not dolling out) his own treasure, he got into his stride delivering a genuine moment of Commons drama with precision timing.
'This is my first Autumn Statement as Chancellor and after careful consideration, and detailed discussion with the Prime Minister, I have decided that it will also be my last,' he said leaving MPs and the press gallery in shock.
2016 has delivered many surprises and it would not have been beyond the realms of possibility this would be another one.
'Mr Speaker I am abolishing the Autumn Statement,' he said. Amen to that. I'm not sure our sides would cope with all the japes.