Thursday, March 22, 2007

Budget Day

No nation on this earth makes as much fuss over their budget as do the British. It may be that no other nation's Minister of Finance possesses such a tatty red briefcase. Come to think of it, not many of us do and, if we did, we would have given it to the kids to take their sandwiches to school.
Ever since press photography came to be invented, we have been treated to pictures of the chancellor du jour, outside Number Eleven, holding up this icon of office with an enigmatic smile upon his face. Prior to that, no doubt the artist from the Illustrated London News was there to do a quick sketch. Since it is neither original nor informative, I wonder how it makes the front page every time.
But it seems to be regarded a bit like Derby Day, although the odds of picking a winner are clearly less in your favour.
As for the budget itself, this is such a predictable event in terms of its reception: cheers from the government benches; boos from the other lot followed by reams of analysis by the media, that it's a wonder anybody bothers to watch. Deep down, you know that whatever it looks like superficially, you're not going to come out of it any better off.
Many nations elect Finance Ministers who have some slight grasp of the subject but the British, who love amateurs, seem to pick them out with a pin.
Winston Churchill at one time fulfilled the function and, whatever his other qualities were, adding up was not one of them. His own finances were perpetually in a parlous condition and at one time he had to be bailed out by friends in order to keep his country house.
But Chancellors have a great advantage over the rest of us. If you or I ran our fiscal affairs the way governments do, they would have to re-open the Fleet Prison and probably the Marshalsea as well. But, on finding a huge fiscal hole at the end of the government rainbow, chancellors can always rely on it being filled in by the taxpayer.
But it does seem a little careless to place the financial hopes, fears and dreams of a nation into one old briefcase.
"Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, I came here today to present my budget to you. Unfortunately, I seem to have left it on the number seventeen bus."



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