26 August 2010

It's a fairy tale

Once upon a time, there was a young chancellor of the exchequer named Gideon. (He called himself George but his real name was Gideon.) When Gideon prepared his first budget, he decided that he should call it progressive. Nobody was clear about why this should be, as the budget's centrepiece was a hike in VAT, which was unquestionably regressive - in that it obviously had a more adverse effect on the finances of the poor than on those of the rich.

Then a big bad thinktank called the IFS came along and crunched the numbers. Gideon and his coalition pals hated the IFS 'cos it was good at sums (whereas politicians were notoriously innumerate). And the IFS in its fussy, pedantic way concluded that the budget was far from progressive. Not that Gideon cared much; he had only said it was progressive in order to attract a cheap headline and to confound his parliamentary opposition (as labour politicians were also not very good at sums).

Because Gideon was on holiday (in a secret location), it fell to Little Nicky to leap into the breach and, wielding the sword of truth, to defend the honour of the coalition. Alas, Little Nicky botched it up good and proper by suggesting that the IFS had failed to take into account the coalition's proposals to get the unemployed off benefits and into work. This was all a bit fanciful as nobody believed that the coalition's proposals would work. Even if they managed to reduce the numbers on benefits, there was unlikely to be any work for the unemployed to go to. But Little Nicky burbled on and on, thus giving the IFS even more publicity than if he had kept his mouth shut.

And so the IFS emerged from the imbroglio with its reputation enhanced, while Little Nicky once again looked like a prat.

And that's the story so far. Tune in to the next episode when Gideon tries to explain why he failed to carry out the equalities assessment of the budget as required by statute.

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