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…
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….
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.
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.
Osborne: Perish the thought! The budget is set in stone!
Gauke: Not soapstone?
Osborne: No. Granite.
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.)