We've seen and heard a lot of George Osborne recently. The Chancellor has done the full round of TV and radio shows, not to mention the odd parliamentary appearance in the wake of his recent Budget.
He was up before a select committee the other day to explain why so much of the Budget was leaked to the media before the day itself – it was nothing to do with him, obviously – and it gave me quite a start. Not because of what he said, but there was something about his voice that troubled me. And then I got it. He sounds exactly like Piers Morgan.
It was just the sort of fairly meaningless aperçu that Twitter was made for, and within a nanosecond, I'd had a torrent of responses from people agreeing, and saying they'd never seen the two men in the same room together. Anyway, try it out for yourself. Listen to Mr Osborne's performance at the select committee, and then check out Piers giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. The pitch of the voice, the cadence, the tone of incredulity that one's propriety could in any way be questioned, the occasional note of levity, the air of insouciance and confidence or, as some might have it, self-satisfaction. The similarity is uncanny.
I don't know who would be more upset by the comparison. Would it be Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan or George Gideon Oliver Osborne? I suspect it would be Piers, and I know exactly what he would think about the smoking gun (or, more accurately, the steaming pasty) that has been discovered in the detail of last week's Budget. What a disgrace, Piers would say of the plan to put VAT on a hot takeaway pasty, but not a cold one. From his penthouse suite in a Los Angeles hotel, the former editor of the Daily Mirror would declare that this shows just how out-of-touch these Tories are with ordinary people.
Mr Osborne told the House of Commons that he "can't remember" the last (or maybe even the first) time he bought a hot pasty from Greggs the bakers, and he is now busy limiting the post-Budget political damage.
He was savaged in a thundering editorial in The Sun, and #pastytax was one of the most active threads on Twitter yesterday. I particularly liked the suggestion (retweeted by John Prescott, who I suspect is a more recent visitor to Greggs than Mr Osborne) that the best way to beat the pasty tax is to buy a cold one and go to No 10 and get David Cameron to warm it up for only £250,000.
There are so many ludicrous anomalies around VAT regulations – there is VAT on chocolate biscuits, but not on Jaffa Cakes – that it is tempting not to take any of it seriously. But that would be a mistake. In the real world, politics is made up of small things that affect people's daily lives rather than the big policy shifts. So this farrago, which has turned the Tories from the Nasty Party to the Pasty Party, may prove to be something more than just a storm in a microwave.
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