The Plastic Hippo

March 24, 2013

Are you being served?

Filed under: Media,Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:12 am
Being served image via bbc

Being served image via bbc

The sad death of Frank Thornton at the grand old age of 92 serves as a reminder that terrible comedy is less excruciating when executed with impeccable timing and genuine acting talent. Unfortunately, as we have witnessed this week, experience of folding towels at Selfridges is not necessarily the best preparation for those fortunate enough to be elevated to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

George Osborne delivered his fourth budget on the same day the Lords finished off another piece of his “Omni-shambles” third budget. His bizarre idea that employment rights should be given up in exchange for some dodgy shares in dodgy companies went the same way as the pasty tax, the granny tax, the caravan tax and any semblance of fiscal savvy or, indeed, any evidence of competence. Osborne`s fourth contribution to financial ruin contained very little of anything new and stuck to the same script of blaming the previous Labour government for the results of his own inept stewardship. He is borrowing more than ever, the debt is up and the deficit is up and the only growth apparent is the length of his nose as he states the exact opposite of fact. It is difficult to decide who is the more dishonest; Osborne with his fiction or the Labour front bench refusing to challenge invented and meaningless statistics.

We were, however, treated to a new piece of nonsensical fluff. Government departmental spending has, it seems, been reduced by a massive £11billion. Rather like the previous year, when Osborne spouted figures “proving” that the deficit was down, the opposition front bench looked deflated as Tory backbenchers shrieked orgasmic shrieks in an unseemly display of tumescent ecstasy. Then, as now, Miliband and Balls walked towards the elephant trap set for them with all the innocent enthusiasm of (with apologies to Douglas Adams) Norman Wisdom approaching an open manhole. Last year the hokum was achieved by including receipts from the G4 license sell-off which at that time had not taken place. Expecting to sell a Picasso at auction, all they got was the price of a Renault Clio suitable for spares and scrap.

The devil is always in the detail and by the time Osborne was safely back at one of his residences and Danny Alexander was gibbering incoherently into microphones, some of the detail emerged. Part of the £11billion was an “under spend” of £2.2billion allocated to the NHS. With 800 fewer nurses since the last budget and ambulances queuing up outside disappearing A and E departments, perhaps the “under spend” has as much to do with ruining the NHS ready for plunder by private healthcare companies with a habit of employing or donating to cabinet ministers and Tory Lords and Ladies. Osborne`s other clever wheeze is to defer agreed government spending commitments until some unspecific time in the future. From a government that likes to compare a global economy to a household budget and that we should live within our means, this sounds like we can pay our monthly mortgage sometime next year, tell the person on the supermarket checkout that we will pay for the shopping next month and inform the utility company that we will pay the gas bill when the bulk import commodity price is lower.

There was, of course, “good news” in Osborne`s latest piece of crime fiction that was carefully placed online and in print in the Evening Standard before the Chancellor stood up to deliver the budget. Beer going down, help with child care for working families, lower National Insurance contributions for small business and assistance with mortgages for people desperate for a home of their own. We`ve never had it so good. The buy 280 and get one free offer is certainly tempting and I am sure that the brewers, distributors and retailers will be falling over themselves to pass on this massive saving and not default to the normal increase citing “increased overheads”. Don`t hold your breath. The Chancellor squeaked about employers taking on new staff and not paying any Nation Insurance. He didn`t mention that it`s a one-off two grand split across every employee. Tax relief on childcare is only applicable if both parents work full time and earn enough to be able to afford childcare and will not happen until sometime in the future. No mention of single parents, part time or low paid “strivers”.

Osborne`s austerity plan for economic salvation has thrown up perhaps the most an blindingly stupid proposal so far. His “help-to-buy scheme” will encourage people to take on loans, with the help of the government, to buy a house. This idea might look good on the front pages of the Standard, Telegraph and Mail but Beelzebub is in the small print. Firstly, this will allow well off people to buy a second home with a government subsidy. Secondly, government lending to house buyers in a flat economy where new housing is not being built will result in a sharp rise in house prices as the free market exploits supply and demand for unwarranted profit. I hope George is keeping up because we come to the third and final, and I mean really final, consequence. Lending money for house purchases of up to £600,000 with a small deposit and underwritten by government finance in a recession will lead to mortgage default and debt. Toxic debt.

As a graduate of Modern History from Magdalen College Oxford, one would hope that the Chancellor is at least familiar with the phrase “Sub Prime Lending” and that he has some knowledge of those lovable comic characters the Lehman Brothers and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. After graduating he gained a part-time job that would equip him with the experience he would need as Chancellor; he was employed to input the names of dead people into an NHS database. Then he hit the big time in the towel department in the sit-com world of Grace Bothers, Mr Humphries and Mrs Slocombe. It is tempting at this point to reference Theresa May and her obsession with “cats” being a reason to grant asylum status but that would be a double-entendre too far.

As Captain Peacock, Frank Thornton brilliantly played the floor walker as an upper-middle-class authority figure keeping the grotesque stereotypes from the lower orders in check. Perhaps that is where Osborne mastered his art; it would appear that he did not learn much from his mother. She was, and possibly is, a Labour voter. She opposed the Vietnam War and was associated with Amnesty International. The Chancellor changed his given first name from Gideon to George to make life simpler. Perhaps he is considering adopting his mother`s maiden name.

She was known as Felicity Alexandra Loxton…(wait for it)…Peacock. Are you being served? No…we are not.



  1. bang on, once again, that’s made my sunday……………”what’s that luv help with the beds,I’m free”

    Comment by andy — March 24, 2013 @ 7:18 am | Reply

  2. We have a History graduate, with very little work experience, running the economy. What should we expect?

    Comment by Ged Cowburn — March 24, 2013 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  3. No doubt they can wheel out Thatcher to utter the phrase “You’ve all done very well”, except they haven’t.

    Comment by Aiden McHaffie — March 24, 2013 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

  4. Reblogged this on Getting There.

    Comment by Aiden McHaffie — March 24, 2013 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  5. The difficulties I have with the metaphor is that Grace Bros. seems to have made enough money to survive, while treating its staff and ‘customers’ a whole lot better than current employment practices require.

    Witness long-forgotten perks such as the staff canteen, Christmas Party and staff outings, let alone the almost alien concept of High St. retailers providing employment.

    I would also remind younger readers that Captain Peacock, despite his airs and graces, failed utterly in his attempt to control the workforce. Indeed, when faced between a choice between them and his jug-eared superior, he inevitably reverted to the former.

    I am more inclined to reference that other shop-based classic ‘Open All Hours’, in which a narrow-minded back street shopkeeper dreams of making his fortune by ripping off his customers and bullying his hapless assistant into working for nothing.

    Arkwright makes routine references to his assistants unsavoury family heritage and constantly tries to convince those that shop with him that his deals are in everyone’s best interests.

    Doomed to oblivion, he spends his life dreaming about what could have been achieved if only he could woo Gladys Emmanuel, a single woman working in the NHS and caring for her mother.

    For some reason, she is not attracted by his wiles.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — March 25, 2013 @ 11:29 am | Reply

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