Mr Swan the Treasurer has just handed down the annual budget in Federal Parliament; while it has a Whitlamesque flavour - a record deficit of over fifty billion dollars - it appealed to my lateral-thinking sense of whimsy by reminding me of one of those eccentric British customs that sadly didn't survive the voyage to Terra Australis, despite our State and Commonwealth Parliaments striving to maintain mutatis mutandis the rights and privileges of Westminster:
While delivering his Budget Speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer*, in accordance with a custom of the House... is permitted to regale himself with the liquid refreshment of his choice. Disraeli [Chancellor in 1852, 1858 and 1866] is said to have favoured brandy and water while Goschen [1887-92] preferred port. Some Chancellors have called for most unusual concoctions, and Gladstone [1852, 1859-66, 1873, 1880-1] is on record as having consumed sherry and beaten egg while presenting his Budget. ...Sir Stafford Cripps [1945-50] was far more orthodox [or staid, rather] in choosing plain water. Mr Derick Heathcoat Amory [1958-60] preferred a more sustaining concoction of milk, honey and rum, but Mr Callaghan [1964-7] has been satisfied with tonic water.
– Wilding & Laundy, An Encyclopædia of Parliament (4th rev. ed., 1970) p. 61.
I wonder what Winston Churchill imbibed when he was Chancellor from 1924 to 1929? Or his father, Lord Randolph, in 1886? And I imagine William Pitt the Younger (Chancellor 1782, 1783-1801, 1804-6) drank something quite potent!
[*In the UK the former post of Lord High Treasurer was put into commission, following severe abuses, back in 1714; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Under Treasurer, and senior Lord of the Treasury after the Prime Minister as First Lord, is successor of the original Treasurer there; but in the rest of the Commonwealth, the old title of Treasurer for the Minister of the Crown in charge of government finances has been maintained.]