Your Money or Your Life

Yesterday in London the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, read his annual budget speech in parliament. As a piece of purely political theatre it is surely exceeded only by the ludicrous annual Opening of Parliament – the ritual costume pantomime whose only real benefit is routinely lost with every repeat performance: that in spite of all the pretensions and illusions of our so-called democracy, real power in Britain is pretty much exactly the same as it was a thousand years ago.

The annual farce of the chancellor’s budget has little of the pageantry of the yearly visit by the monarch, but given the fact that the nation’s media seem unable to find anything else to talk about when it happens, it is of course always useful as a distraction from the many other events the people should be hearing about. We should be hearing more about what our country’s intentions are in the impending war with Iran, for example; or finding out why exactly our government is sabre rattling around the Falkland/Malvinas islands – again; or what exactly is behind the government initiative to export teaching jobs to Indian call-centres. But no; our trusted media spend hours and hours distracting our attention with their supposed analyses of the chancellor’s budget. Well we all know what the implications of the chancellor’s budget will be. We don’t need the media to waste our time telling us. They’re exactly the same implications as they’ve been for at least the last thirty years:

The rich are going to get richer, and the poor are going to get poorer. And until we have significant political reform that will be exactly the same budget story, year after year, until there’s absolutely nothing left to plunder – by which time the plunderers will have packed up and left to enjoy their ill-gotten gains in their various treasure islands and other off-shore tax-havens, exactly as has happened to every other dying empire since the dawn of “civilisation.”

I think parliament should start a new annual custom to precede the chancellor’s budget. Rather than the present naff pantomime where the world’s press collect outside the door of 11 Downing Street to film a dull-looking little businessman leaving home with a tatty red box, we should instead see a masked highwayman striding arrogantly out his door, mount a shining black steed and gallop off towards parliament, black cape billowing behind him, pistol waving in the air as he cries out through the streets of London, “Your money or your life.”

John Andrews is a writer whose latest book is The People's Constitution. He can be contacted through his website. Read other articles by John.