By one of those inexplicable quirks of modern technology, there was a most unusual case of crossed wires in the House of Commons this week. While the rest of the nation listened to George Osborne’s Budget speech, another narrative was coming through loud and clear on the smartphone of a junior parliamentary correspondent. It was, unmistakably, issuing from the contented form of the Justice Secretary, who appeared to be asleep. Here, exclusively, are the main points of Kenneth Clarke’s dream, which seemed to get under way quite soon after the Chancellor began speaking.
“Today’s Budget is an urgent call to action for Britain….”
Hm. Hm? Sun on the face, hair ruffled by the gentle wind. Murmuring sound around me, what could that be? Ah yes, it’s my classic Morgan convertible purring down a country road. Radio’s on. Somebody’s droning on and on. Voice seems annoyingly familiar.
“… This Government declares these principles again today for the modern age…”
Modern age! How many times have I heard that in my life? What’s on Radio 2? Ah, jazz favourites. Now we’re talking. It’s the great hard-bop supremo Cannonball Adderley, playing One for Daddy-O! Wha-what? Someone’s nudging me. I don’t believe it. There, gazing provocatively at me from the olive-green leather passenger seat is none other than the classic French chanteuse Juliette Greco. I smile seductively at her. Bonjour to you, ma cherie.
“Ken! Ken!” I could almost swear that’s the voice of Danny Alexander, junior minister of something or other. Ignore it â€“ that always works. Was that a thump? I have a nasty feeling that I might just have run over the little Lib Dem, but here’s a funny thing â€“ I don’t give a damn.
“… Britain has a plan. And we’re sticking to it…”
I glance across. The gorgeous Gallic charmer Anouk AimÃ©e is holding something firm and beautiful in her slender hand. Now I’m breathless with excitement. The little minx has only managed to bring a Romeo y Julieta Corona with her! She places it delicately between my lips. Mm, mm, first two puffs â€“ a Cuban cigar lit by a French starlet. Could anything be better?
“… we simply cannot go on like this”.
Suddenly we’re home. The lady wife is at the front door. I have that niggling sense that I’ve forgotten something. Was I meant to be making a speech? Are my fly-buttons undone? I explain to the wife that there might be a bit of fuss since I’ve just run over Danny Alexander and replaced him with my new friend â€“ I turnâ€“ the smouldering jazz temptress Annie Ross. That annoying voice is still speaking.
“There should be no cherry-picking on either side…”
And this time it’s coming from my own sitting room. I burst in. Sitting around a long table is a group of smartly dressed schoolchildren. One of them is speaking. It’s Osborne!
Marianne Faithfull stands beside me, straightens my tie and tucks my shirt into the front of my trousers. “Have you forgotten, Ken?” she asks huskily. “It’s a Cabinet meeting.” I stride forward and, without more ado, sit firmly in the chair occupied by Cameron, squashing him flat. As I settle in, I feel him twitching beneath me but only for a few seconds. He’s rather comfortable.
“We have put fuel into the tank of the British economy…”
I’m peckish, as it happens. At that moment, the door opens. Margaret Thatcher enters, bearing a mighty roast with all the trimmings! A wine waiter at my elbow pours me a glass. “Not a bad dwop, is it, Ken?” I look up to see my old pal Heseltine. The old gang is back! In short order, the schoolkids are kicked off their seats and run away blubbing. I’m surrounded by chums – Norman Fowler, Johnny Major, Hurdo, even Smoothie Parkinson.
” …and I commend this Budget to the House.” Hear, hear!
Independent, Friday, 25 March 2011