Vir Cantium

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Monthly Archives: June 2010

In Full: Coverage of the Future World Cup/Championship/Olympics*

(* delete as appropriate or insert sport of choice.)

Anchorman: So it’s over now to the Excuse-Making Championship Final, we’re they are about to start, and down there is former Excuse-Making national skipper, and legend, Nick Complainer.

Nick Complainer: Many thanks Adrian, though I don’t know about legend … they always had it in for us during my time, but yes, here we are at the final of the World Excuse-Making championships. An event that the Great Britain team have always been strong at. I’m joined here in the commentary box by our old Glaswegian friend and former professional touchline whinger John Macdonald. John, how do you see things going this afternoon?

John Macdonald: Well Nick, as you say, Britain is the side to beat when it comes to making excuses for losing. Here we are looking to make it an unbroken run of two, no three …

NC: Yes, three

JM: … yeah, three decades of taking the trophy for having world-class reasons why it wasn’t our fault we lost. And here they come, another strong side fielded today. They have swept all before them in this tournament. They’ve literally given 200% this year.

NC: And what a few weeks it’s been John. As usual the Americans didn’t get far this year. Their strategy was an odd one – pointing out to everyone the number of Olympic medals they’ve won.

JM: Yes, very strange – this isn’t a sport that the Americans have ever quite got the hang of, is it Nick?

NC: No John, perhaps they’re more used to their own adaptation of the game. Of course, they do have a habit of making up their own versions of our sports and then claiming themselves world champions because no-one else actually plays them.

JM: Ha ha. Nick, those are the words of a true former captain of the British excuse making squad. Bit of the old Eighties magic there for the listeners.

NC: Ah, happy days John, Happy days.

And here we go, with the British captain starting with the classic opener, talking about the weather and saying that these aren’t the best conditions for play.

JM: Indeed, we’ll be hoping for an early breakthrough – a dodgy refereeing decision will be ideal at this point.

NC: Absolutely, and – I don’t believe it – you’re psychic abilities are on top form today John. It’s only a yellow card, but the interruption to play will smack of gamesmanship to team GB.

JM: The manager is looking now to capitalise on that early boost, and is tugging on the opposing side’s shirts, saying that the grey colour makes them near invisible, even on this clear sunny day, playing on the lush green pitch.

NC: Now he’s a canny one, our manager, and he’ll be keeping the colour of the grass in reserve in his tactical box of tricks.

JM: No sooner have you said that Nick and there is Geoff Cricketer on the outfield, blaming the pitch, claiming it’s a badly prepared wicket and how his grandmother could have done a better job of t’ rolling – there he is pointing out the cracks around the popping crease. Oh, but he’s being challenged by the Australian, whose saying that the other side had to bat on the same wicket and still made 500.

NC: Not to worry though John, the ‘keepers done a good job there with the old standby – there he is running around angrily saying “We Woz Robbed”.

JM: Yep, good save there, Nick. That’s the sort of blind indignation that has got us out of trouble a good few times in the past.

NC: The British fans are on good form today, keeping those flash bulbs going, putting off the players.

JM: Yes, Nick, you can’t underestimate the value of an enthusiastic fan base. And just as Team GB wanted, the umpire’s being slow to ask for no flash photography which has now given Tim Robinson a chance to complain. Nicely played.

NC: There’s Gary Striker now, trying to position himself in front of the Argentinian, trying to force a foul or handball, whilst simultaneously making it difficult for the ref to actually be sure.

JM: That’s a very difficult move that, but he is showing why he is the consummate professional here today, and now the ref will have to give the benefit of the doubt to the Argentinian.

NC: And Team GB are building on that run, asking if the ref’s name sounds a bit Spanish to you. There’s Kevin Redtop on the wing, doing the nudging and winking.

JM: I think today’s ref’s actually Portuguese Nick.

NC: Well, it’s all the same innit?

JM: Sounds like you’d rather be back out there again Nick.

NC: Ah, us old players never really retire, we just move to the back pages.

(Later …)

NC: Well, we now have just a few minutes left, and things aren’t looking too good, John – could we be about to see Britain’s record broken here?

JM: Well Nick, that new move from the Frenchman did outflank us – complaining that we were playing by the rules when they normally ignore them was something we haven’t seen before.

NC: Indeed John, but wait … yes, the British side have made a sudden match-winning break … yes, indeed, they are now pointing out those players on their own side who are from north of the border … yes, Team Great Britain have, on the fly, renamed themselves Team Scotland. What outstanding play. And that’s the final whistle, and so England have now extended their record run of 31 years without losing a contest of making excuses for losing.

JM: Eh, what?

NC: So John, you must be very disappointed at the performance of the Scottish team today.

JM: Och, it’s no bother Nick – we’ll just blame the English as usual.

[I can give you my word of honour that I wrote this some months ago, before they started moaning about the FIFA football being used in the World Cup. No, really I did!]

The Emergency Budget: A Triumph of Expectations Management

Well, the big headline – the 20% VAT rate was expected. Proportionately it is a lower increase than Labour’s return of VAT to 17.5% at the start of this year, introduced when the economy was arguably weaker than it’s likely to be next January. Not that I’m happy that we are increasing taxes – even marginally less unfair taxes such as VAT – but we all know who is really responsible, and it shouldn’t have been a great surprise for students of the nuances of political language – “we have no plans to…” means little in the unpredictable political climate of 2010.

All in all, the scare stories that were inexplicably circulating before the budget did make the actual thing seem a lot a expected. Capital Gains Tax will only go up to 28%, not the 50% that a return to a pre-2008 arrangement would have meant. Child benefit remains, albeit frozen. More interestingly, it remains universal; and, one could argue, why not, given that those on higher incomes have paid more tax and thus may feel entitled to get something back from the system.

Then the increase in the personal allowance will be worth around £200 to many people.

The bank levy will not be a transaction based Robin Hood Tax, and combined with the reduction in the main corporation tax rate may not trigger the flight that some feared – though time will tell. Expect other governments to now react in a similar direction, including the xenophobic White House (they may be itching to re-fight the American Revolution, but that won’t stop them welcoming, at least privately, the moves on this side of the pond).

There’s still more to digest, but that is largely a function of the quantity of significant measures in the speech, rather than the time-bombs that Labour used to hide away to explode during the committee stages. Something new that we will have to get used to, is the reaction of the Lib Dem coalition partners. Hysterical Hattie, in response to Osborne, may have a point when she highlighted how many Lib Dem MPs would have campaigned against the very measures contained in today’s budget.

Football Heresy

Followers of the religion of the pig’s bladder should look away now, or risk a coffee/keyboard incident.

It seems that people will be pulling sickies at work, some schools might close early,and some on the radio this morning are even asking if the organisers of Wimbledon will be providing updates for the crowd of the England vs. Slovakia Serbia Slovenia game.

For pity’s sake. It’s only a game.

After all it’s not like it’s something important, like the two minutes silence, the Coronation, or the last day of the deciding test of an Ashes series ….

Laugh/Cry/Emigrate (delete as applicable)

Via Guido, The Devil and the venerable Samizdata, our Aussie cousins have nailed it rather well with this satirical skit: