Beaming with pride, his chest puffed out like a cock ptarmigan on a crisp winters morn, a strutting chancellor proclaimed to an invited press pack last evening as "nothing short of miraculous" the government's latest formula which, it is claimed, will see widespread entitlements to state benefits shared, from now on, on a class-by-class basis by all claimants, "no matter what their social class or smell". Speaking in the absence of the Work and Pensions Secretary, who was unable to afford to get to the announcement this week, the chancellor wryly announced that the changes would be seen by all as progressive, unbiased and, above all, fair. "Fair benefits for all" would be the guiding maxim. "What's more, its sheer genus and simplicity is that it will be entirely cost-neutral. Everyone in all three social classes will win and there will be no losers. What's not to like?"
Later in the evening, the shadow chancellor, the corner of a soiled napkin still stuffed behind a limp windsor knot and down the neck of a creased, unbuttoned shirt, went on the offensive, issuing his stinging retort to a small but growing throng of reporters gathered outside his North London home "This smacks of typical Tory bully-boy tactics. The chancellor is going to be handing out free cash at the rate of £2756 a year to hard up toffs when the poor working classes have to get by on a poxy £53 a week hand-out. And lets not forget the squeezed middle (remember them?) who will count themselves fortunate indeed if they receive anything like a paltry £230-ish a month. Make no mistake, Its one rule for the rich and one for the poor all over again.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies was still choking on its cornflakes at 11 this morning.