Diary: Danny's £40bn IMF gift wouldn't cost a penny

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Nothing brightens a gloomy Sabbath morn like Danny Alexander, and the Treasury's Chief Secretary was on cracking form when chatting with Superinjunction Marr's stand-in Jeremy Vine on BBC1. For all that, I was alarmed by Danny's thoughts on contributing up to £40bn to the IMF. What we credulous halfwits should know, explained Danny (I paraphrase a soupçon), is that this wouldn't mean actually handing over any cash.

Technically, this is true. No one would visit Christine Lagarde with 800 million £50 notes in a wheelbarrow. Even so, Danny reminded me of Harold Wilson insisting, on devaluing sterling in 1967, that "the pound in your pocket" was worth no less.

So far as buying a loaf that day, this too was technically true. It was also patronising cobblers that damaged his credibility irreparably, because people dislike being treated as toddlers, and spoonfed deceitful mush, in times of crisis.

If the national self-interest is served by giving billions to the IMF, make that case. But don't pretend that in these circumstances there is such thing as a totally risk-free financial transaction which couldn't cost the taxpayer a bean. The appetite for that sort of fantasy was sated by our splendid casino bankers a while ago.


Silvio, the new Wagner

Italy's in terrible trouble, and so is The X Factor... It's TIME. To MAKE. A JOB SWAP! It doesn't matter much which of Louis Walsh's over-25s, Kitty Brucknell or Johnny Robinson, goes to Rome to execute the austerity package. Both have more fiscal credibility than the incumbent. The crucial thing is to recruit one-time cruise ship crooner Silvio Berlusconi as an 11th-hour addition to the karaokeathon line-up. If there's one stock character the X Factor grievously misses, it's the ogling Latin lothario as played so well last year by Wagner Carvalho.


Life in the old boy yet

How long before some smart television executive commissions a satire of Dallas simply called The Murdochs? According to a magazine profile, Rupert's issue are now in family therapy to prepare them for the inheritance battle ahead. This seems a bit previous. His mum is still going at 102, his heart's strong and nothing malignant could flourish in that bloodstream, as a very brief brush with prostate cancer once proved. Stop the squabbling, you pesky kids, because the old boy's good for another 20 years. Now you know how Prince Charles feels. If Rupert was suddenly taken from us, however, my money is on Lachlan, though I would back Elisabeth if only she had a more cunning and ambitious soul mate to scheme on her behalf than Matthew Freud.


Sleepless nights await Liz

Another lively week for the Daily Mail's Liz Jones. Apart from claiming that she once "stole" a lover's sperm from a used condom in the barren hope of conceiving a child, she had important footwear news.

"I have found my ultimate boots: fake sheepskin Ugg rip-offs from Primark, for the princely sum of £5. I am toasty..." Hurrah.

Back in March, Liz wrote this: "Let's hope shoppers are realising that if something is dirt cheap, then someone somewhere is getting screwed." After reflecting sadly on a trip to Bangladesh, where she met women paid slave wages to produce goods for Primark, this sanest of solipsists went on: "There has to be a middle ground that means we can sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge we are not oppressing anyone." Sweet dreams, Liz. After all, as Annie Lennox argued in the song of that name, some of them want to be abused.


Krystal Ball gazing

In honour of Durex's public relations supremo in France, I am pleased to introduce The Cecille Hardon Medal For Courage In Refusing Deed Poll. The first recipient is a businesswoman and one-time Democratic candidate for Congress who reads the political runes for a US network. In such turbulent times, it isn't easy to glimpse the future of US politics. But MSNBC's Krystal Ball does her best.

Leave the questions to Mr Watson, please

James Murdoch looks more finished than ever after the revelation he not only approved a £1.7m payoff to Rebekah Brooks, but is funding her central London office. Doubtless the media select committee will ask James about any unofficial consultancy work when he makes his second visit on Thursday. Recalling his first in July, I beg its members this. Be silent, please, and leave the questioning to Tom Watson, right. Yes, Mensch, you too.