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Mark Steel

With a few more jokes, he could take it to Edinburgh

You have to pity Brown's poor wife, as presumably he rehearses the whole thing the night before

It's mathematically impossible for anyone interesting to be interested in the Budget. Some people say you should take an interest, but did Mozart ever make sure he finished a symphony early to catch the opening statement on prospective economic growth. I bet Marlon Brando never says "Oo, I never thought public sector borrowing would go up by all that."

It's not that the issues don't matter, but the presentation makes it utterly alien to any normal person's life. There's endless drivel that you can't decipher, except it's all supposed to convey that everything is fantastic. There are loads of passages such as, "When I commenced the deregulation process thereby relaxing supplementary anabolic duty on pre-term somnambulistic investment, I predicted palindromic post-directive growth rates throughout the radioactive sector of between 3.8 and 3.9 per cent annually, but this has been surpassed both metabolically and behind square on the onside to record an increase of 2 million per cent on Tuesday alone."

And every now and then, after a phrase like "alleviating unnecessary dichotomies in the carnivorous sector," the Conservatives all go "Wooooo."

Throughout all this, Blair sits at Brown's side as if he's his dad, occasionally looking around with an expression of "that's my boy".

At some points, you expect him to nudge Gordon Brown and say, "Tell them about the stamp duty", then shout to everyone: "He's ever so good with stamp duty!" And then for Brown to look at his feet and mumble "Tooooony, stop it. You're so not coming to my party later."

You have to pity Brown's poor wife, as presumably he rehearses the whole thing to her the night before. Maybe she's learned to make it seem as if she's listening, by going "hmmm" now and again, and making comments such as "Do a bit more on reducing the hexagonal burden on agriculture."

To boost his confidence, perhaps she suggests that, if he can pad it out for another 20 minutes, he can take it to the Edinburgh Festival.

It's become so tedious that yesterday the man on the radio who's job is to analyse the Budget said he wasn't interested in the Budget. This was his big moment and he was bored by it. It's like Black Rod half lifting up his stick and saying: "I can't get motivated this year."

Next year, Gordon Brown should deliver a speech to which we can relate. He should unveil a huge cash dispensing machine, and when he gets to the bit that says "Do you wish to check your balance?" press "yes", then yell "Shit! There must be more than that," then look ghostly and sit down.

Or start with "Here you go ladies, what have we got? I've got an inflation target for a fiscal quarter here, I'm not asking 10 per cent, I'm not asking eight per cent, (I tell you what, I've got an import/export balance here that's been on the telly - Crimewatch - only kidding), I'm not asking five per cent, I must be crazy, 3.6 per cent, stick your hands up, darlings."

This is another reason for legalising drugs, to increase interest in the Budget. At least a few million people would spend the afternoon muttering "Tut, ninepence on a spliff again, it's always the dopehead that gets hammered." And there'd be an interview with an old aged pensioner who'd say she'd pay the extra somehow, because "I can't give up the crack, it's the only pleasure I get."

One reason why so few people feel that, apart from the effect on beer, fags and petrol, the Budget has no connection with them is it nearly all revolves around business. Throughout the unintelligible twaddle is a set of phrases such as "to encourage business", and "incentives for business", from which you could imagine that everyone in the country runs a business and the employees are some other species that have their own Budget.

There is an argument amongst many old Labour supporters, that although Blair is a traitor for handing the country to big business and George Bush, this would be reversed if Gordon Brown became leader. But Brown has supported Blair over every single major issue. It's a desperate plea to hope for something, but you might as well hope that corruption in the police force would be cleared up if only it was taken over by a random selection of jockeys.

That doesn't mean there's no difference between the two. I suppose at least Brown wouldn't do that hand-wringing and twitching whenever he needed to look sickened. Whereas Blair seems to think the performance after Diana's crash went down so well he has to repeat it after every catastrophe, with a few key words changed, as if it's a standard letter from a big company.

We got a shining example after the bombs in Spain, with a speech that seemed to go, "This is a shock to (pause) all decent people, for (pause) these were the people's Spaniards, they were (pause) the Spaniards of hearts."