Are you sitting comfortably? Well, Kenneth isn't

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The Independent Online
Political Stories for the Very Young. Number 1: 'The Story of Kenneth and the Budget'

ONCE upon a time there was a boy called Kenneth who was in a gang called the Government Gang, and it was his job to look after the gang's money. Do you think it would be a nice thing to be in a gang and look after their money, children? Yes, Kenneth thought so, too. But when he was given the job of looking after the gang's money, he found they hadn't really got very much.

In fact, they hadn't got anything in the kitty at all]

So he went to see the boss of the gang, who was called John, to talk about it.

'Hello, John,' said Kenneth. 'I just wanted to talk to you about our money.'

'Jolly good,' said John. 'How much have we got?'

'None,' said Kenneth.

'Oh,' said John.

'In fact, it's worse than that,' said Kenneth. 'We have less than nothing. We owe a lot of money.'

'Who to?'

'People,' said Kenneth, vaguely. He was new to the job and wasn't quite sure yet.

'How much, about?'

'To the nearest billion?'

'Oh - is it as much as that?'

'Yes,' said Kenneth. 'I don't know who was doing this job before me, but he didn't clear up very well before he left.'

'It was a boy called Norman,' said John, absently. 'We are not friends any more.'

'I am not surprised,' said Kenneth. 'So, what are we going to do about this money business, then?'

'We?' said John. 'Oh, I am far too busy with Northern Ireland to be able to help. I am happy to leave it to you, Kenneth.'

Northern Ireland was a part of the gang's territory where they were always having trouble. Other gangs kept fighting them there, and it always seemed to get out of control no matter how hard John tried to get things peaceful. The trouble was, it was quite expensive trying to keep things peaceful there, and as things weren't peaceful there - well, it all seemed a bit of a waste of money trying to keep it peaceful in the first place. Kenneth wouldn't be surprised, he thought, if that was where half the gang's money was going to . . .

Kenneth went back to his room and did his sums again. No, no matter how often he did them, he always got the same answer. They had no money. Oh dear. Usually it's fun being in a gang, thought Kenneth, but when you've got no money it's not nearly so much fun. Kenneth had sometimes thought it might be quite fun to be leader of his gang one day, but he wasn't so sure now.

'Time for tea, Kenneth]' called Kenneth's mother.

'I can't come right now, mother,' shouted Kenneth. 'I'm doing my sums]'

When Kenneth came down for tea, he was still looking very thoughtful.

'Mother,' he said, 'if you needed a lot of money quickly, how would you get it?'

'Well, I'd sell something I had, like a toy set or something.'

She was absolutely right. The trouble was that they had already done that. They had sold off a phone set they had, and a chemistry set, and a gas system, and lots of other things like buses and railway sets, but now they really hadn't got much left to sell. And they still needed the money.

'If only we could sell off Northern Ireland, or something,' thought Kenneth to himself. He smiled. That was quite a good joke. Then his smile faded. Actually, it was quite a good idea. 'Sell off Northern Ireland?' said John, when Kenneth suggested it. 'Have you gone completely crackers?'

'It's no more crackers than selling off our train set or telephone stuff,' said Kenneth. 'There's bound to be someone who wanted to buy it.'

'Oh yeah?' said John. 'Tell me someone. Tell me somebody you know who would honestly want to buy a dump like Northern Ireland.'

'Southern Ireland,' said Kenneth.

John thought about this. Then he thought about this again. Then he tried thinking about it one more time.

'Southern Ireland, eh?'

Southern Ireland was the name of the next-door gang. Actually, they had always claimed they owned Northern Ireland anyway, but the Government Gang had always kept their hands on the place, and made rude noises across the dividing line at the Southern Ireland Gang.

'Sell Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland, eh?' said John. 'Sort of privatise it to the original owners, you mean? Well, that would solve our problems and it would fit in with what the gang believes in. Hey, what a great idea]'

Coming soon: Part Two, in which secret talks get under way with the Southern Ireland Gang]