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GRAEME WHITFIELD OVER the next week thousands of words will be written about the Budget and, by my reckoning, about 312 of them will get read.

I have this theory that the Budget is the political equivalent of the Emporer's New Clothes. For weeks beforehand, MPs and pressure groups put forward their demands about what should be in it. The day itself takes place with all the fanfare of a coronation while for days afterwards, experts and political journalists analyse it in minute detail. But ultimately, no one really cares. This is the secret that nobody dares speak for fear of being cast as a shallow dimwit: the Budget is very, very boring and people aren't really that fussed what's in it. Fortunately, I don't mind saying it because I'm already viewed as a shallow dimwit for many good reasons.

The idea that homes and factories around our fair land grind to a standstill so that everyone can hang on the Chancellor's every word is fanciful. People go about their day exactly as they always do and the vast majority come in, find out what's for tea and see what's on the gogglebox before spending 30 seconds at the most seeing whether or not the price of beer, petrol or cigarettes has gone up.

The only people who sit through the entire Budget are political journalists and the residents of secure mental institutions. (You may say that these are one single group but I would never be so rude.) Of course, this is just my theory and I could be wrong. I am wrong about 18 times a day so there's always the chance. That's why I'm calling on George Osborne to test out my hypothesis by dropping a few ludicrous elements into the Budget on Wednesday. Much as the Ordinance Survey put deliberate mistakes into their maps so that they can tell when people are copying their work, so Georgey should introduce a tax on, say, the ownership of peacocks two hours into his speech and see whether people are still listening. I reckon he could get away with it, particularly if he slips it in after a turgid 20-minute preamble on the macroeconomic climate. Osborne could also take the opportunity to slip in something to benefit us all. I recommend free chocolate for ginger-haired people or new powers to stop the spread of Jeremy Clarkson ... but I'll leave it up to him.

He might as well have some fun, after all. It's not like anyone's listening.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 19, 2011
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