Today Rishi Sunak will stand outside No11 Downing Street and hold up a red briefcase before going to the House of Commons and delivering the Budget .
In his speech the Chancellor will announce the government’s spending and tax plans for the next 12 months that will affect millions of Brits.
But before that, there is the small matter of the red case.
It’s a long-standing tradition, but is it just for show or does the box have a purpose?
What is the red box?
Whenever the Chancellor appears in Downing Street before the Budget announcement he holds up a red briefcase – officially called a despatch box – at the end of his outstretched arm.
This year it has appeared in some of the hundreds of shots of Mr Sunak in his Budget promotional video, in which the top Tory opens the case before adopting the familiar Budget day pose.
On Budget day the case actually contains the Chancellor’s speech and notes, rather than the full Budget.
The box itself is identical to all other red briefcases used by government ministers to carry official papers, but the Chancellor is the only Cabinet member to actively pose with theirs.
Using the box for the Budget is a tradition that dates back to 1860 when William Gladstone was Chancellor.
The Liberal politician had a box made that was lined with black satin and covered with scarlet leather.
Parliament explains: “The word budget comes from the old French word 'bougette', meaning little bag.
“It was customary to bring the statement on financial policy to the House of Commons in a leather bag.
“The modern equivalent of the bag is the red despatch box or Budget box,” which is what Chancellors have been doing for the last 160 years.
According to legend, in 1868 Tory Chancellor George Ward Hunt arrived at Parliament opened the despatch box only to find he’d not packed his speech, leading to a mad dash back to No11.
This is reportedly where the pre-announcement tradition of holding up the case originates.
Meanwhile in the early 1990s, Tory Norman Lamont used the Budget box to smuggle a bottle of whisky out of Downing Street while his aide, a young William Hague, carried the speech in a plastic bag as there wasn’t room for both.
Is it the original case?
All Chancellors between 1860 and 2010 – with the exception of James Callaghan and Gordon Brown who both had new versions made – have held up Gladstone’s box.
Alistair Darling brought it out of retirement, and George Osborne also held it up to the cameras in June 2020 for his first Budget.
In 2010 it was considered too fragile and was retired for good before being put on display in the Cabinet War Rooms.
Since 2011 Chancellors have using a new box commissioned by The National Archives.
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