The hippo will remain below the surface of Hatherton Lake in Walsall this coming Saturday, but his spiritual presence will be divided between Cardiff, Colombo and, more importantly, the streets leading from the Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park.
The England national football team, led by the philandering John Terry, travel to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for a Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales. Given their previous lack of ambition, commitment and flair, perhaps Fabio`s boys should spend the afternoon at a garden centre in order to spare us further disappointment and embarrassment in the tournament finals.
Far away, the England cricket team face Sri Lanka in a World Cup quarter-final and after delivering the wrong kind of runs against Ireland and Bangladesh, prospects do not look good.
But, at noon, between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge on the banks of old father Thames, people from all over the country and from all walks of life will take a stand and protest against the cuts to jobs, services and dignity. The boy Gideon, in his first foray into economics, gave proof positive of two things. Firstly, he hasn’t got a bloody clue about economics and secondly, a war has been declared against the majority of the British people.
Undeterred, his second budget confirms that the already wealthy and privileged will benefit and those in need of benefit will be abandoned and made to pay for the excesses of the greedy. This latest lunacy also proves that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is economical with the truth.
Claiming that the most pressing economic priorities facing the coalition government are deficit reduction, a curb on public borrowing and developing economic growth, the Old Etonians are heading off in an entirely opposite direction. Growth is slowing down and the Office of Budget Responsibility, created by Osborne to massage the figures when he came out of hiding following the election, has advised him that he is talking out of his bottom. Last November, the coalition government borrowed more than in any other November and a new record level of borrowing was achieved for February. Launching Tomahawk, Tornado and Typhoon in the crunch relegation zone play-off match against Libya doesn’t come cheap and the deficit, along with Gideon`s nose, is growing.
The headline grabbing one pence reduction in fuel duty has not exactly resulted in spontaneous outpourings of gratitude from delighted motorists. After six months of increases in fuel duty, Tuesday saw petrol retailers increase the price again, in some cases by two pence. On Wednesday, Gideon pulled the rabbit out of the hat and shook it at the party opposite resulting in numerous damp patches on the coalition benches produced by over excited Tories and Liberals. At six pm it cost £1-50 less to fill a Ford Focus. By Thursday morning, the price of petrol was back to where it was on Monday.
To finance this slight of hand, or lie in plain English, oil producers in the North Sea will have to cough up a £2billion windfall tax. Yeah right. Regardless of what he says now, Gideon will allow them to put up prices to cover the shortfall in profits. Just minutes after the Chancellor sat down, the odious Danny Alexander, Libdem MP for Inverness of all places, talked darkly of oil supply uncertainty due to the current bun fights in the Middle East. No mention of the likely devastation to the Scottish oil industry when the producers decide to pull up sticks and develop new oil fields in, let’s think now, hmm, off the coast of Libya perhaps? For a government that stated its intention to be the “greenest” yet, British Petroleum will be delighted that negotiations with Gaddafi are on temporary hold.
But there is more good news. Changes in taxation means that low and middle income families will be better off by the princely sum of £48 per year. Ignoring the rise in VAT and cuts to tax credits which makes a family worse off by up to £500, we can now buy 48 items from the pound shop with impunity. You spoil us Chancellor.
Regardless of the promise made by Cameron, the winter fuel allowance to pensioners will be reduced. Disability Living Allowance, paid in the past to the Cameron family, will all but disappear. The NHS, along with education and social care are being dismantled. “Growth” allows a reduction in tax paid by big business. Supermarkets, strip clubs, kebab shops and (deep breath) open cast mines will be able to “grow” without the tiresome need to apply for planning permission or listen to the concerns of neighbours. Localism at its best.
Irrational and violent even when in a good mood, the hippo will not march in London on Saturday. The appearance of a two tonne furious water horse renouncing life-long pacifism and rampaging along Whitehall would be too provocative for the good officers of the Metropolitan Police. Already veterans of suppressing peaceful demonstrations by school children and students, any attempt by the Met to kettle an angry hippo will end in tears.
After Tolpuddle, Tienanmen and Tahrir, future historians may need to consider the events in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park on Saturday 26 March 2011. The games on the three fields of play are of no consequence and whatever the final goal tally, runs scored, wickets taken and heads counted, England and the rest of the UK, is being defeated.