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Britain’s spending cuts – Attila the Hun meets Princess Charming

November 26, 2015

The Feast of Attila, by Mór Than

So the grizzly turned out to be a pussycat.

George Osborne, the UK’s finance minister, spent months softening us Brits up for the biggest round of cuts in public spending since the Great Depression in pursuit of his sacred book-balancing project.

Opponents of the cuts we were led to expect regaled us with doomsday scenarios that left us slashing our wrists in anxiety.

Tax credit cuts would make the impoverished even poorer. Reductions in police budgets would make life easier for terrorists as they cooked up their chemicals and stitched together their suicide vests in unpatrolled neighbourhoods. Defence cuts would make us a laughing-stock among our better-equipped allies.

Muggers and burglars would be free to ply their trades in the knowledge that nobody in a dark blue uniform would be seen on the streets for months, and the chance of one of them attending a crime scene would be less than that of being dive-bombed by a flying pig.

Little old ladies would quake in their sitting rooms waiting for the intruder to appear at the window, or the Russians to come marching down the street. Young families would bristle in outrage because they wouldn’t be able to eat. Or, worse still, that they could no longer afford their Sky TV subscriptions.

It turns out that we’ve been played.

When Mr Osborne revealed the details of his spending plans yesterday, the tax credit cuts were nowhere to be seen. Police budgets were left as they were. And whoopee, more spending on health, defence and housing. All this because apparently we’re £27 billion better off than we thought we were. Well that’s nice. Presumably Santa knocked on the minister’s door just as he was about to tell us that we would be having nut rissoles for Christmas.

And so a grateful nation sighs in relief, and gets ready to spend the equivalent of several times the GDP of Burundi on new IPhones for the kids.

All of this reminds me of an episode from when our children were growing up.

At 14, one of our beloved daughters had the attitude of Attila the Hun and the dress sense of Alaric the Goth. When she wasn’t in Attila mode she could be utterly charming. And she used that combination of nice and horrible to great effect.

One day she approached me with a problem. Daddy, my clothes are crap. I need at least six new tops, two pairs of jeans, a coat and three pairs of shoes. She chose me, of course, as the line of least resistance. I, being a moral coward, referred her case to the real authority in the family.

Mrs Royston politely pointed out that she had several thousand pounds worth of clothes strewn over the floor of her bedroom in layers according to their age. Rather like the seven layers of ancient Troy. Perhaps if she looked after the stuff she had, not all of it would turn out to be crap. Well actually, she wasn’t very polite, and this is a sanitised version of her language.

At this point our daughter went into full Attila mode. With Hunnish fury she made our lives a misery for the next five days, shooting her arrows of contempt at every opportunity and spreading a poisonous atmosphere as only a hormonal 14-year-old can.

We withstood the siege, sighing with relief every morning as she stomped off to school, no doubt to compare notes with her mates on the cruelty of parents, only for the hostilities to renew when she got home in the evening.

On day six she changed tactics. Attila was but a horrible memory as she sidled up to me in Daddy’s-little-girl mode. She’d had a think about what she’d needed, she said, and it turned out that perhaps she could do without the clothes for the time being. But please, please, please could she have a new pair of party shoes?

At which point the united front collapsed, and I took an executive decision. Yes. The prospect of another week of emotional battery was too much to bear, and Daddy’s little girl danced off with a smirk on her face and several crisp bank notes in her hand.

An object lesson in how to conjure something out of nothing. So yes, be it by accident or design, we were played.

Which goes to show that in politics you don’t need a dozen advisers to achieve your objectives. You just need to watch your children going about their business. And if you don’t have kids, hire some as advisers.

From → Politics, Social, UK

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