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By Paul Goodman
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David Gauke (Answers phone): Gauke speaking.

George Osborne: David, George here.

Gauke: Chancellor!  You must have seen Newsnight yesterday.

Osborne: Newsnight? Why? (Pause.) Was Boris on it?

Gauke: Er…No, Chancellor.  But I was.

Osborne: You were. Why?

Gauke (Stiffly): I was defending the, er, adjustment to the pasty tax that we discussed yesterday, Chancellor –


Osborne (Hurriedly): – Yes…er…yes, you were brilliant.

Gauke (Pleased): Really…did you see it?

Osborne (Pause): Er, no.  Well, not exactly.  Busy evening.  Frances's charity book launch…phone call from Jeb Bush…urgent meeting with John Terry…all very difficult.  Curry with Liam Fox.  Afraid that one went on for quite a bit –

Gauke: – I can imagine, Chancellor –

Osborne (Pause): – But Matt and Claire say you were great.  And that's what matters.

Gauke: Thank you, Chancellor.

Osborne: Yes…yes…but…now, coming back to that pasties plan.  (Pause.) Well, actually, to that caravans plan.  There's a slight calibration –

Gauke (Flatly): It's another U-turn, isn't it?

Osborne: Well, it's really a kind of O-turn.  I mean, it starts by going left, veers straight up, then goes right, then goes downwards…and so –

Gauke (Pause): – I appreciate, Chancellor, that these decisions naturally cannot always be made in full consultation with every single member of the Treasury team…

Osborne: …Naturally…

Gauke: …And as you know I regard it as the duty of Treasury Ministers, regardless of their personal responsibility or otherwise for any individual decision, to go out and bat for the Department….

Osborne: …Absolutely…

Gauke : The boy stood on the burning deck –

Osborne:  – Where all but he had fled –

Gauke: – The flame that lit the battle's wreck –

Osborne: – Shone round him o'er the dead.

Gauke: Just one thing.

Osborne: Sure.

Gauke: It's just that…I mean, obviously, I don't mind going out there and saying something that's – oh, come on, George, you know what I'm going to say.  This really is the last time, isn't it?

Osborne: I'm sorry?

Gauke: This is the last…I mean, there won't be any more calibrations or O-turns or whatever you'll call them tomorrow, will there?

Osborne (Smoothly): Of course not.

Gauke: Good.

Osborne: Perish the thought! The budget is set in stone!

Gauke: Not soapstone?

Osborne: No. Granite.

Gauke: Excellent!

Osborne:  I mean…do you really think…how could you think…do you really think that I would do that to you?

Gauke: Of course not, Chancellor.

Osborne: Always remember, David: I'm right behind you.

Gauke: I want you to know that I carry those words with me wherever I go, Chancellor.

Osborne: That's my boy!

(Line goes dead.  Mysterious clicking and whirring sounds.)

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