A draft of the Chancellor’s speech has been leaked to the press. This is what it says:
Mr Speaker, I stand before this House the victim of a brutal internal battle. Nothing new there, you might say. Any Budget is the product of a painful struggle between the rock of the Treasury’s prosaic responsibilities and the hard place of the Prime Minister’s populist cravings; between the political pressure to please the electorate and the economic pressure to please the markets; between the altruistic urge to plan for the country’s long-term interests and the urgent one not to appear a reckless ignoramus, as I did a year ago.
Being a puffed up miniature ponce of very little brain, you, Mr Speaker, will not understand the Byzantine complexities behind this speech. But take it from me that reconciling those competing forces is no picnic. If I still resemble an adolescent Regency fop whose idea of light relief is yelling “Buller, Buller, Buller!” while high five-ing the Mayor of London, you should only see the Dorian Gray portrait in the attic. It makes Davros, creator of the Daleks, look like the young Brando.
This year, my task has been harder than that of any Chancellor in history. With the external battles mentioned above, at least you have a bit of company and some gallows humour on the way. The internal one has been a bleak and lonely struggle to resolve this question: should I, or should I not, break the iron rule of politics by telling the plain truth?
So impossible to decide has it been, Mr Speaker, that there are two speeches laid out before me. Until a few seconds ago, I was still veering towards the conventional torrent of gibberish in which I dolefully report that the projections I gave a year ago were, if you’ll excuse the unparliamentary language, a load of festering bollocks; and make more predictions about GDP growth and borrowing which I will have to confess were a steaming pile of pus in 12 months’ time.
Then I saw the shadow Chancellor giving me one of his hand gestures, and I changed my mind. This job is ghastly enough without the mad-eyed posturing of the Right Honourable Member for Morley and Outwood. Partly thanks to that grinning chimp, I’ve had it with this Chancellor lark, and no mistake.
Now I could lay the usual line on you about how the confluence of the banking and eurozone sovereign debt crises and the monstrous debts bequeathed to us by the party opposite left an economic legacy of unparalleled gloom; how sticking rigidly to my austerity plan is the only way out of the mire; and how only by holding our nerve now can we build the foundations of a strong, sustained recovery. But you heard all that last year, along with the rot about the paramountcy of keeping the Triple-A credit rating (didn’t that work out spiffingly?). So to spare us this tedious annual charade, I am opting for Plan B.
The truth, as everyone here knows, is that Britain is f****d – utterly, irredeemably finished – and there’s not a thing I can do about that. Yes, I could tinker at the outer margins of a comatose economy with some tuppenny ha’penny incentives for small business, lobbing in a capital gains tax gimmick here and a mind-numbingly irrelevant fiscal policy tweak there. But I can’t introduce significant tax cuts because that would boost inflation, thieving savings in a more traditional manner than that pioneered on behalf of the government of Cyprus, and the deficit. Anyway, the best such economic L-Dopa could achieve is to rouse the patient for about five minutes before it relapsed into the coma.
While we’re playing Sybil Fawlty, let me make another statement of the bleeding obvious. You cannot maintain a crumbling stately home on the proceeds of a small and shrinking annuity. All you can do is huddle in one room with a single bar on the fire. That, Mr Speaker, is the inevitable future for a country that has sold all the silver and mortgaged itself beyond the hilt.
We’ve done what we could these past three years – not well, certainly, but we’ve had a crack – and nothing has helped. We have effectively devalued sterling, for example, though God knows why when we make next to nothing to export (even the bloody arms industry is in decline now that we can’t bribe the Saudis to buy our gear), and all a weaker pound brings is higher fuel bills.
A country with little manufacturing industry and a poorly educated workforce cannot keep its living standards in a world soon to be dominated by the surging powerhouses of Asia and Latin America. We have no way of competing with the BRICs, and things can only deteriorate.
Now, we recently heard a bucketful of pious cant about minimum alcohol prices, before my Rt Hon friend the Home Secretary stamped her kitten heels on this wizard wheeze. And hats off to her, Mr Speaker, because the future is no time to be sober. For those without a wallpaper fortune to inherit, the choice could not be simpler. Would you rather stick to the recommended number of units for a shot at passing your dotage in a filthy care home waiting for a caustic attendant to change your pad? Or drink yourself silly, have a bit of merriment, and leave this world before the real horror begins?
The only policy that can transform our prospects – by slashing the costs of geriatric health care and the state pension provision, and filling the coffers with inheritance tax – is to ensure that people die in droves at 65, and preferably long before that. My fondest dream is to introduce legislation mandating the termination of anyone without a net worth of £1.5m – workers and shirkers, strivers and skivers – at 52. If I could, I would pass the Logan’s Run Act tomorrow, and outsource the work to Dignitas. I am advised, however, that our Liberal Democrat partners would find insurmountable “human rights” objections there.
Nonetheless, this Government’s aim remains to cull the middle aged long before they become burdensome geriatrics. To this end, my only specific announcement today is that from 6pm this evening, the duty on all forms of alcohol will be halved. From now on, Mr Speaker, every hour in Britain will be happy hour, in the hope that those who drink, drink more and be merry will tomorrow be dead.
Well, Mr Speaker, there it is. It wasn’t great, was it? No one could call it a triumph, but it was at least the truth. I’m Osborne, I’m out, and I commend this Budget to the House.