The firm of G. Osborne and Co Roofers this morning issued a statement about progress in fixing the nation’s roof. The statement was read by Mr Osborne himself. He admitted the job is taking four years longer than he had originally estimated.
But Mr Osborne was impenitent about this delay. He blamed it on the firm entrusted with the work during the period 1997-2010, which failed to mend the roof while the sun was shining.
Those of us who are not roofing experts, but are capable of taking an interest in the weather, waited to hear whether the sun is now shining. Mr Osborne was in two minds about this. Each time he announced signs that things are brightening up, he went on to say that conditions are still pretty bad for renewing our roof.
As Mr Osborne put it in his opening remarks: “Britain’s economic plan is working, but the job is not done.” Everything, he suggested, will go wrong if we lose patience with him and hand over the work to the rival firm of E. Balls, who learned how to make a complete mess of things while serving a long apprenticeship with a cowboy builder called G. Brown.
Mr Osborne warned that our deficit is “still far too high” and exports are “not growing as fast as we would like”. But he added that “employment is at an all-time high” and “by 2018-19 the Office of Budget Responsibility do not expect a deficit at all”. R. Chote, who runs that office, is instead predicting “a small surplus”.
Since R. Chote’s previous forecasts had proved inaccurate, we were not sure why we should attach any greater credibility to this new and better one. But Mr Osborne just insisted in a relentless tone: “This time we will fix the roof while the sun is shining.”
To achieve this “means taking difficult decisions and sticking to them”. By this time we could not help noticing that Mr Osborne was making no attempt whatever to charm us. He was instead trying to brow-beat us into sticking with him for the next seven years.
“We are all in this together,” Mr Osborne assured us. A few moments later he added that his firm is “on the side of hard-working people” and has “a long-term plan for a grown-up country”.
So if you are not grown-up, and not hard-working, maybe you are not one of those who is all in it together. It struck us here that Mr Osborne could be taking a bit of a risk. It rather depends how many frivolous, juvenile people there are in the country, who would sometimes prefer to read a good book, go for a drink at the pub or fall asleep in front of some junk telly.
Mr Balls accused Mr Osborne of “utterly breath-taking complacency” and of being “in complete denial”. According to Mr Balls, we have just endured “three damaging years of flat-lining” and are now experiencing “the slowest recovery for over 100 years”.
He went on to accuse Mr Osborne of making “a half-baked attempt to steal Labour’s clothes”, and to say: “We know they’re not very good at shooting badgers. They’re not very good at shooting foxes either.”
Soon Mr Balls was asserting that “a Treasury minister has let the cat out of the bag”, after which he said something about “a turkey of an idea”, before assuring us that IDS stands for “In Deep Shambles”.
We admired the richness of Mr Balls’s imagery. But unless and until he can decide what his favourite animal is, we shall remain doubtful about entrusting our still unmended roof to him.