We wish you a miserly Christmas

15 Dec 06
DAVID MEILTON | I am delighted to be taking over the job of sending out this seasonal message from my old friend Santa Claus, who has been summarily fired.

I am delighted to be taking over the job of sending out this seasonal message from my old friend Santa Claus, who has been summarily fired.

Dear old Santa was, I’m afraid, too old, too decrepit and, worst of all, too out of touch with the thrusting youth of today — unlike myself. If you are looking for a role model for the twenty-first century, be sure that I am it — as my good friend Gordon Brown will assuredly agree.

As they say in the NHS, it’s the post that has been cut, not the person: I know that is so, because Gordon told me. The job has in fact been outsourced to our good friends EDS, and will henceforth operate from a call centre in Thailand.

However, I do have to inform everyone that deliveries may be delayed until at least February 29 due to unexpected IT problems.

Before we go any further, I would like to make it clear that anyone expecting goodwill and good cheer from this quarter has another think coming — Bah! Humbug! (what is Christmas without a catchphrase?). Gordon and I share a philosophy based on realism and prudence.

Indeed, I can reveal to Public Finance readers that — in order that the great British public can benefit even more from my unique expertise — my appointment as special adviser on economic affairs to the prime minister-in-waiting is imminent.

Gordon tells me he has a perfectly reliable replacement in mind for the Treasury when he takes over the top job. But he believes that young Mr Balls will need a trustworthy and experienced adviser to ensure that the remarkable successes of Gordon’s tenure are maintained. Enter Ebenezer Scrooge.

My salary, which has been widely but erroneously reported as not unadjacent to £100,000, will be comfortably covered by the anticipated Gershon cuts at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which will entail the closure of all offices north of Carlisle and west of Shrewsbury and redeployment of staff into the agricultural industry.

And when by next Christmas the economy is in a leaner, fitter state, you will all know who to thank.

We have already made substantial progress. Look at the NHS, for example. Waiting lists for a hip operation are now shorter than for a table at some London restaurants.

There will undoubtedly be a few short-term blips, which may be portrayed by cynical and uncharitable commentators as disadvantages — and I speak as one who has in the past suffered an unfairly bad press.

No-one is more admiring than myself (unless it be Gordon, of course!) of the job our brave boys in the military are doing in such dangerous and far-flung locations as Iraq, Afghanistan and Aberystwyth.

I am sure they will not be too disheartened that, in view of the latest National Audit office report on major Ministry of Defence projects, a few savings are to be made. They will find that their new broomsticks will frighten the Taliban — and the Welsh — just as much as their self-loading rifles, which don’t work anyway.

You will by now have heard of my plan to close uneconomic post offices, which means nearly all of them. They are an unnecessary luxury in these environmentally sensitive times. In particular, the practice of sending out mountains of Christmas cards is clearly wasteful of scarce natural resources.

I am also pleased to reveal that, at Gordon’s request, I have for some time been keeping a weather eye on Sir Michael Lyons’s inquiry into local government to make sure that the ridiculous amount of money wasted on feckless spendthrift councils is reduced, rather than increased.

So far, thanks to my efforts (keep extending the remit, it always works), the Lyons report has been effectively parked in the long grass where, come next spring’s rains, it will have effectively been lost for ever. Wouldn’t Jack McConnell in Scotland have been grateful for similar stratagems vis-à-vis the Burt report?

Rumours of a tax on Christmas itself, however, are wide of the mark. That said, if people want to imperil their health with large quantities of noxious items like fruity puddings and mince pies, it is only fair — as my friend Jamie Oliver agrees — that they should pay through the nose.

Christmas is, as even Scrooge recognises, a time for give-aways, so each copy of this message will come with a DVD of my own production of that seasonal favourite, A Christmas Carol. I, of course, play myself, and feature my show-stopping number Give me money, that’s what I want, with Baby Dave Cameron as Bob Cratchit and John Prescott as the turkey.

It will, as you might expect, have a somewhat more credible ending than that provided by that incorrigible sentimentalist Charles Dickens. No Ghost of Christmas Past nonsense, and no last-minute conversion to charity and benevolence from myself. As you are about to find out, reality doesn’t work that way.

Did you enjoy this article?