When David Laws moved in as chief secretary to the Treasury in 2010, he found a note from his predecessor Liam Byrne saying: ‘I’m afraid there is no money.’ It was the most famous parting gift in British political history. What was meant as a joke (Byrne had thought his friend Philip Hammond would get the job) quickly became the coalition government’s most effective weapon against the opposition: proof that Labour could not be trusted with the public finances.
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