Pre-Budget Sketch: Father Gordon takes comfort from the rest of Europe and his tie

Link: Pre-Budget special report

Those poor French! (Hear, Hear). Those Italians! (Ho,Ho). What about the Germans! (Pah) It didn’t actually go like this, but you get the idea.

It was at about the time he turned to the world economy that he developed a tie-smoothing tic. I like a man with a tie-smoothing tic. There is something very understandable about the need to run your fingers down the shiny silk of a diamond-relief red tie.

Especially when you find yourself managing one of the biggest economies on the planet.

Sometimes, when rattling off national debt statistics, or when gathering speed over the need for pay discipline, the tie seemed to be at risk of being worn threadbare.

As the tie reassured its wearer, so too did the opposition. Largely silent during much of the statement, and absent I presume from the ‘hear, hear’ cheers at the mentions of other countries, Brown even found time too to chastise the benches opposite for never giving him a sleepless night.

We knew he was a new father, and felt sure he was alluding to the happy addition to his house, but he assured them that the economy hadn’t given him sleepless nights either.

But I felt sure that if there’d been a concern over any of the ties in his collection not being completely smooth, the sleepless night count might have come under threat.

Despite my craving to hear a clue about the future of ISAs, I realised how easily distracted I am by talk of whisky and spirits. Then I noticed that the same seems true of the entire Commons.

‘One in six bottles of spirits sold in Britain is evading duty,’ the chancellor warned.

I listened hard, expecting to hear a guilty clink from the more ruddy-faced of our people’s representatives. Alas there was none. Where can I buy such a bottle, I wondered. But as I was casting my mind over all the likely locations for duty-free booze, I heard that this was a filthy practice that would happily soon be eradicated by a good old fashioned dose of bottom-stamping.

The pace increased, once more a list of those poor foreign people with odd economies was supplied, and the listener was steadied for an end to the whole affair. But no. This, it turned out, was a false bottom, of the kind to be found in spirit-smuggling stories from the American Prohibition.

The statement had more to deliver. And there it was: for accountants the length and breadth of Britain, there is the loss of a second separate set of accounts for firms using international standards.

For whisky drinking accountants there is the change in accounting rules AND the arrival of a stamped bottle of the potent liquor.

For tie-smoothing accountants,meanwhile, there is a role model who has delivered what the TV and radio bulletins that morning said that he would … an upbeat view of the economy.

Roll on the Budget.

  • Patrick O’Connell, a freelance journalist and former BBC business busines correspondent. He presents BBC3’s Liquid News.

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