A little speculation in futures

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TODAY I am pleased to announce that we have secured the services of the famous clairvoyante Madame Norman Lamont, who will peer into the future for us and tell us what is going to happen. And the first question for Madame Norman is . . .

Do you foresee an imminent change in interest rates?

Madame Norman says:

The recession is now over and that's official. So what we have to do is make sure we do nothing to risk prolonging the recession.

Who do you think is going to win the American election this autumn?

The recession is almost finished, make no mistake about that. We are now out of the woods and recovery is just around the corner. Already business confidence is returning and very shortly we shall be back on the path to prosperity.

Any idea where you'll be going on holiday this year, Madame Norman?

The recession, of course, has been a worldwide phenomenon, and entirely due to global economic factors, so the Government can in no way be blamed for any recessionary factors. On the other hand, the Government can, I think, fairly take credit for any improvement in the economic picture - and I think all the evidence now goes to show that we are moving out of recession and into a period of sustained growth.

You have been predicting the end of the recession for three years now, and so far nobody has seen the slightest sign of it. Do you think the credit level of your powers of seeing into the future should be given a downward revision as of this moment in time?

No. I firmly believe that the recession is now ending and that we are witnessing the end of the downturn and the start of the upturn of the end of the economic cycle. . . .

To put it another way - would it not make more sense, while you insist on predicting the end of the recession ad infinitum, to put your predictions of recovery on an answering machine and leave it to speak for you, while you get on with something else?

All the conditions for economic recovery are now in place. The experts are all agreed on this now. Nothing can possibly prevent the end of the recession. Please put another 50p in if you wish to hear the message again.

Madame Norman, I wonder how you feel about the way MPs have voted to give themselves a huge rise in expenses. Do you think this means that the recession is over for them?

Until you have actually seen the conditions under which MPs work, I don't think you can have any conception of how badly they are funded and equipped.

So you agree with their enormous increase in expenses?

On the other hand, any inflationary move must be sternly resisted, as it will only tend to postpone the end of the recession, which, incidentally, is almost upon us.

What sort of research staff do you have yourself?

I have a full body of civil servants to help me in my work, all skilled statisticians and analysts.

Do they think the recession has come to an end?

I don't know. I've never asked them.

Oh. Wouldn't it be a good idea to consult them occasionally?

Hold on - I tell a lie. I did ask them the other day about the recession.

And what did they say?

They said: 'You may well be right, Madame Norman - the recession may be over and we just didn't notice. Silly old us.'

Can you think of any predictions you have made in the past that have come true, apart from those about the recession?

Yes. I successfully predicted the result of the last election. I said well beforehand that the country would vote for a government that had made a proven success of running the economy in the past.

But they didn't, did they? They voted the Tories back in.

I hadn't thought of that. Well, I expect the voters had been awaiting the much-heralded end to the recession for so long that they voted the Tories back in just to see if they could do it.

Do what?

Go on heralding the end to the recession.

And do you honestly think the end of the recession is nigh?

I sincerely believe that all the economic factors are now in place for a sustained period of recovery, heralding a renewed cycle of boom that can only benefit everyone. . . .

(Do you want a personal consultation with Madame Norman about the state of the economy? Simply turn on your television and wait.)