Magazine article The Spectator

We Need a Regime, an Incentive, a Hotline -- Next, Gordon Brown's Budget for Sex

Magazine article The Spectator

We Need a Regime, an Incentive, a Hotline -- Next, Gordon Brown's Budget for Sex

Article excerpt

The best moment in the Green Budget came early. Below the Chancellor's televised picture there appeared a caption: 'Accused of sexual offences against under-age girl'. Alas, this was meant for dear old Gary Glitter, and Gordon Brown rattled on, unarrested. Sex is, in fact, one of the few human interests for which he has yet to provide a regime, an incentive, a hotline, or a scanner designed to alert the Customs and Excise to what is going on. Next year, no doubt. When he first gave us a Green Budget, by way of a trailer for the full-length feature to follow, he had trouble in finding enough things to say, and went on about how important it was to keep warm in the winter. Nowadays he has plenty to say, and sounds like a cross between an Inland Revenue press notice and a speaking clock. Eighteen months ago he made capital gains tax more complicated, which took some doing. Could he now invent a new complication for it? Yes, he could. He must imagine himself sitting at some great economic control panel, pressing buttons and making bulbs light up as each finely judged electric charge pulsates through some hapless company or individual to make them more productive. The economy does not work like that, and companies and individuals do not work like that, either. They may even make better choices than he does, or they would, if he gave them the chance.

Air Marshall

ANOTHER quarter, another set of ghastly figures from British Airways, another chirrup of defiance from Robert Ayling, the embattled chief executive. Not a chirrup from his chairman, Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, nor a sighting, for that matter, but he is a busy man. As well as his day job, which brings in 251,000 a year, he lists three other chairmanships, and deputises for the chairman of British Telecom and the president of the Confederation of British Industry. This time last year he was reporting on the role of economic instruments and the business use of energy, and was effusively thanked for inventing the climate-change levy. A year later, the Chancellor is awkwardly backing away from it. Now Lord Marshall has become chairman of Britain in Europe, which after a number of delays and cancellations took off last month with the Prime Minister on board. It purports to be promoting debate about the European single currency, but this is the sort of debate that begins with the answer and works its way back to the question.

Value for money

LORD Marshall is an enthusiast for the euro and an enthusiast for Europe, but his airline still finds it hard to make money there. (Mr Ayling complains that BA is being frozen out of Frankfurt.) After the ill-judged experiment in rebranding itself as Air Zulu for Zoo Class, BA is scurrying back up-market and now pins its hopes on the long-haut routes and on premium fares. Making them stick will be harder. Respectable airlines now offer business-class travel across the Atlantic for one third of what BA charges. Even in BA's heyday, Lord King as its chairman thought that it required his full (and sometimes alarmingly detailed) attention. …

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