Watching Her Majesty’s prime minister dance onto the podium to the accompaniment of some revolting pop noise had an instant emetic effect on every sane viewer.
Somebody has forgotten to inform our politicians that we expect them to govern us, leaving the task of entertainment to professionals.
The odd witticism is fine, that’s a classic oratorical device. But impersonating a court jester, otherwise known as fool, goes a long way towards making people despise politicians even more than they do already.
However, as Mrs May switched from choreography to rhetoric, her dance routine was quickly forgotten. For, displaying prodigiously lithe agility, she used her tongue to step on everybody’s toes.
That’s a feat almost as improbable figuratively as it is literally.
Her ill-considered proposal on Brexit displeased the Remainers in her own party because Britain would thereby gain some independence from the EU.
It infuriated the Leavers because Britain wouldn’t gain enough independence.
And the proposal angered the opposition because it was put forth by a Tory, however nominal.
Above all, it was nothing new. The Chequers plan has been knocking about for weeks, never failing to elicit just the reaction I mentioned from all the same groups, which is to say just about everyone in the country except Mr May.
Her ignorance of elementary economics is hardly earth-shattering news either, but at least Mrs May displayed some dancer’s dexterity by adding some new twists.
First she lamented that we spend less on schools than on servicing the national debt. And of course improving our schools is a top (rhetorical) priority of this – or any other – government.
Considering that half of our school leavers can’t read, write and add up competently, one hates to think what’s going on in the departments to which a lower priority is assigned.
Such as defence, another top priority, but a marginally lower one. Which is why the French navy is now stronger than the Royal Navy for the first time since Admiral Nelson lost his eye. And the British Army is now smaller than it was at any time since the post-Waterloo demobilisation – smaller indeed than our police force.
It can’t be gainsaid that spending more on servicing the national debt than on either of those top priorities is indeed outrageous. And, theoretically, only two solutions to that problem exist.
One is to spend an extra £10 billion on education and an extra £15 billion on defence, making each edge just above our debt servicing cost. Two is to reduce our national debt and therefore the cost of servicing it by about a third.
Since spending an extra £25 billion would mean a drastic increase in borrowing, the first option would rather defeat Mrs May’s purpose.
That leaves the second option a clear winner. The bright sparks at Treasury should bang their heads together and think up a way of reducing our national debt enough to produce an approximately £15 billion reduction in servicing costs (from the present annual level of £48 billion).
Glad we’ve figured this out – you could see me wipe the sweat off my brow even as we speak. Oh yes, one more thing. How do we reduce the size of the national debt?
Our midnight oil won’t have to be burned because the answer is blindingly obvious. The Exchequer must spend less than it earns, rolling the surplus into debt repayments.
So is that what our fleet-footed PM promised to do? Er… not quite. Actually, not at all. As a matter of fact, she proposed something exactly opposite: putting an end to “10 years of austerity”.
Now the word ‘austerity’, as used by today’s politicians, is a lie in itself. Fiscal austerity means spending less than one earns and using the surplus frugally – exactly the measure that would reduce the debt servicing costs that vex Mrs May so.
But to our politicians the word means something so different as to mean nothing. Austerity to them is increasing public spelling stratospherically rather than cosmically – and consequently increasing the sovereign debt at a slightly slower rate.
Without overstepping the boundaries of logic, I’d suggest that it’s impossible to stop something that never started. But fine, being in a compliant mood, I’m prepared to accept the non-definition of austerity as legitimate.
Stopping it therefore means removing any sensible restraints on public borrowing, in this case by local councils. The councils will then be able to build more social housing, serving the noble goal of accommodating new, mainly Islamic, arrivals at our shores.
One doesn’t have to have a degree in economics – in fact one would be distinctly better off not having it – to see that this state-financed altruism will lead to a massive hike in borrowing.
That will in turn increase the size of the national debt and the cost of servicing it, which will exacerbate the problem our dancer has identified. Hence Mrs May performed a deft pirouette to end at the same point – or rather a much lower one.
But don’t despair. It’s not yet certain that our economy will be dealt this mighty blow. For Mrs May made her ruinous proposal contingent on the approval of her Brexit plans.
It’s a bonus or, if you will, a bribe: she’ll agree to damage the economy only if her fellow spivs are good boys and girls.
If to Mrs May asinine economics is a potential reward, sound economics is punitive. One of her threats to the EU is to lower our corporate taxes and reduce red tape if the EU continues to be bloody-minded.
Meaning that if the EU is compliant, corporate taxes and red tape will go up or, at best, stay the same, making Britain less competitive in world markets. I’m sure there’s some inner logic there somewhere, but I don’t get it.
Mrs May’s economic nous boosted by her talent for rigorous logic is making my head spin, as if I were whirling in a particularly brisk waltz.
Really, our PM missed her true calling. She should have built on her knack for dancing. With diligent application she could have made the chorus line in a West End musical. Barring that, there would always have been pole dancing to fall back on.
Yes, I know she’s a lousy dancer. But at least, had she embarked on that career, she wouldn’t have done much harm – certainly not as much as she’s doing now.