The Sketch: Stifled yawns up 62 per cent. My interest plummets

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The Independent Online

Out of the fetor and stupor of the Budget statement into a bright, blue, blowy mid-spring day. Oh, we shudder when we think of that hour of life lost to Darling.

The statistics produced by the Budget make very gloomy reading. Fabricated surprise up 27 per cent. Muffled indignation and ostentatious chatting – up 17 per cent. Stifled yawns, glazed expressions and numbed buttocks – up by a whopping 62 per cent. "But we must do more," the Chancellor kept saying, followed by sage nodding (up 12 per cent) from the ex-chancellor beside him.

And oh yes, "more" he kept on doing. When I came to the metaphysical essence of the Chancellor's prose, I had to stop taking notes. That sentence was: "I can announce £26m for cavity wall insulation." The plastic bag passage was Phillipian by comparison.

Two things. The value of my second hand, gas-guzzling, carbon-puking 4x4 has gone up significantly. The tax restricted to brand new versions ensures that.

And second, because the tax on spirits is going directly to reduce child poverty, I'm going to drink my way to heaven in 18 months. It'll become one of those codes to be used when we are discovered face down in Greek Street: "Shorry offsha, jusht been lifting kidsh, luvly, luvly kids outa povty."

Cameron was going to target taxes on binge drinkers as well. Not as easy as it sounds. Maybe we'll have to apply for a licence. Whatever it takes, I will drink children into a decent life.

Dave pointed out the Government's continuing practice of Torifying everything wrong with the economy and Laborising everything right with it. He told us that they'd been £100bn out on the debt forecasts and that the only countries with higher debt were Hungary, Pakistan and Egypt. He meant it to sting. As always, he made an impressive figure at the dispatch box, dancing around his script, dealing with hecklers with brio. "I know he's the Minister for Children but he doesn't have to act like one!" That was a big, flat smack that echoed round the hall.

It had followed: "I know he's desperate to be Chancellor, and judging from this Budget it won't be long before he is." And that got a merry round of pointing, laughing and cries of "Balls! It's Balls!" Of course, they might have been shouting, "It's balls!" It means the same, I suppose.

The Conservatives' theme is, rightly, "Where's the money gone?" In the 10 good years, many other countries have paid off their entire national debt or they luxuriate in budget surpluses, while we end up closing post offices and maternity units.

All too true. It may take a million repossessions to get Cameron into Downing St, but I think they've got the guts to face it. Now, I'm off to lift a couple of children out of poverty.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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