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In the wake of the spending review, the chairman likens Chancellor Osborne’s gamble on achieving his planned cost savings to Monaco and the Treasury’s growth forecasts to Narnia

”What country do you think the UK most resembles then?” I asked the chairman of the implausibly sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we met for a pint or two of Fantasy Fund Name at The Spawn Of Diversity. “I’m probably missing something here,” he replied. “Presumably, the right answer isn’t the UK?”

“Not in this context,” I replied. “What I mean is, in the wake of the comprehensive spending review, the new game seems to be to compare the UK to a particular country as a way of illustrating your own prejudices on its economic prospects. So, for example, the Tories say the cuts were necessary to avoid the UK turning into another Greece.

“Labour on the other hand reckons the better comparison is Ireland, which was tipped back into recession when its government cut too hard, too quickly. Then again, a really optimistic Tory supporter might bring up Canada’s renaissance after its own psychotic budget cuts of 1995 – although I notice that was just in time to coincide with the biggest economic upturn in modern history. (article continues below)

“The Chancellor will be doing well to be half that fortunate but, as I said, what country would you pick as a comparison?” “Oh, I see what you mean and two possibilities spring to mind,” the chairman replied. “With the sort of gambles young Osborne is taking on the recovery and the likelihood of actually achieving his planned cost savings, my first choice would be Monaco.”

“Isn’t that more of a principality than a country?” I asked. “Still, I’ll let it go for the Monte Carlo allusion. And your second?” “My other choice relates more to my assessment of the plausibility of the growth forecasts being offered by the Treasury and the Office for Budgetary Responsibility,” said the chairman. “So that would be Narnia, then?” I guessed.

”You’ve just taken the upcoming financial horridness and focused it on what should be the happiest time of the year”

“Got it in one,” the chairman replied. “But, listen – do we have to focus on the comprehensive spending review? It’s all just so depressing, don’t you think?” “Absolutely,” I agreed. “If you like, we could instead turn our thoughts to Christmas?” “Isn’t it a bit early?” the chairman asked. “Not according to my email inbox,” I replied. “The Christmas press releases are just beginning to flow.

“So, for example, I have one from SeatChoice.com, which offers an alternative present idea. Since their raison d’être is to conduct real-time searches of theatre box offices and other ticket outlets, you may not be surprised to learn it advocates buying friends and family theatre tickets, but it also offers a number of top tips on how to do so.

“One really wouldn’t have thought it was possible to generate so many words on the subject, but the only tip I would highlight is its view that Monday night is the new Saturday night because tickets then are usually discounted. As it happens, that is really a somewhat blinkered version of the motto that has sustained my entire journalistic career – ’The weekend starts on Monday.’

“But I digress – the other Yuletide release, which beat SeatChoice.com by a whole day, came from Moneysupermarket.com and informed me 53% of UK adults are worried about funding Christmas this year, compared with 45% in 2009. Also, women are more worried, with 57% concerned about funding their festivities, compared with 47% of men.

“However, women are more organised than men when it comes to Christmas shopping, with 22% having started their Christmas shopping in order to spread the cost compared with just 13% of men. It seems, preparation is paramount for a successful festive season and consumers who have saved in advance will be able to start the New Year without the burden of Christmas debt hanging over them.”

“Hang on,” interrupted the chairman. “How is this any less depressing than talking about the effects of the spending review? You’ve just taken the upcoming financial horridness and focused it on what should be the happiest time of the year.” “I’m sorry,” I said. “I also have something on cuddling up with a partner at home as a way of saving on fuel bills.” “Forget it,” sighed the chairman. “I’m not in the mood.”

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