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Darling needs Dutch courage

TRADITIONALLY, the Chancellor has a glass of whisky before the Budget. This year, Alistair Darling should get to work on a bottle.
 
He may summon up the courage to try something rare. His officials will give him a script. And below, I’ve given him another.
 
All he has to do is take it into the chamber, take a deep breath — and read.
 
Mr Speaker, let’s cut to the chase. There is no good news. I am about to deliver the worst budget in British political history. We are not bravely navigating the choppy waters of a world recession. We’re sinking, thanks to a clueless captain.
 
He’ll probably throw me overboard soon and get a new, more obedient Chancellor. So here’s my farewell note: the truth.
 
You wouldn’t believe the nonsense he tried to get me to announce, to divert attention from the failure of the so-called stimulus.
 
My personal favourite is Mandelson’s Plan A — a £5,000 bribe to buy an electric car! I love it. Pure, naked, full-on desperation.
 
Your job is shaky, your bills are crippling — but don’t worry: the government will pay for you to buy a jazzed-up Sinclair C5.
 
Plan B was to call this a ‘Green Budget’. There’ll certainly be less pollution when a million fewer people have jobs to drive to. At this rate we’ll be the greenest country in the world — because we’ll all end up in caves, bartering root vegetables for a living.
 
All the greenwashing in the world won’t conceal what’s at the centre of this budget: a black hole that will take decades to repay.
 
I could put up tax on booze. But we’d need a nation of Charles Kennedys for that to make any difference. I have no options.
 
Plan C was to call it a ‘Budget for Jobs’. As if. Anyone able to read the small print of the Budget can see what a lie that would be. You’ll find we’re predicting 2.1 MILLION claiming dole by Christmas. Staggeringly, that’s TWICE as many as I predicted last October.
 
When happened between then and now? Our ‘stimulus’. It would have been cheaper to light a bonfire of tenners for six months.
 
I should have called the last one a Budget For Destroying Jobs And Buggering Up The Entire Economy. Because that’s what it did.
 
You see, Mr Speaker, this is the worst budget in history because it is a timebomb of pain, primed to explode after the election.
 
The cunning plan is to keep taxes low, and spending high, for the next 14 months. Then, when the Tories get in power: kaboom.
 
I can see George Osborne going white — OK, whiter. That’s right, son, you’ll inherit an agenda of savage cuts AND tax rises.
 
This cheers up Gordon Brown no end. He says we’re spending on David Cameron’s Gold Card, because the Tories will be picking up the bill.
 
Except they won’t, Mr Speaker. The taxpayers will. Those hardest hit won’t be Tories, but ordinary families and their pension funds.
 
Isn’t it strange, Mr Speaker, that Ronnie Biggs is still in prison for the 1963 Great Train Robbery where he nicked £2.6 million. My government raids that from other people’s pension funds EVERY TWO HOURS. But you see, that’s politics — not crime.
 
What’s the difference? In crime, you take the money and run. In politics you run (for office), then start taking other people’s money.
 
Oh, there’s another difference. Train robbers get life imprisonment. Wreck the UK economy and you get a life peerage. And for free.
 
I can feel the unease of Labour colleagues. But repairing our party means facing up to cold, hard facts.
 
“We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession. Increase employment by boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists.”
 
Not my words, Mr Speaker, but Jim Callaghan in 1976.
 
It’s amazing how little we remember in politics. How we keep repeating the same mistakes, over and over again.
 
Once, New Labour could fool people in Budgets. Spin. Sprinkle stardust. But no more: the people can see straight through it.
 
Honesty is about the only card we haven’t played. It’s our last hope.
 
And so I commend this candour to the House.

 

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