Monday, December 05, 2005

Skating on thin ice

Yesterday, I went ice-skating for the first time in many years, to celebrate VB's birthday in the delightful setting of Somerset House. Thanks to many sexy women being present, and despite loathing participation in anything I'm not good at (ice-skating, MarioKart, hard work, foreplay), I decided I couldn't appear to be a complete wimp and Scrooge-like spoilsport. So I donned the skates and tottered onto the rink.

An hour later, having nearly careered into a cutie who giggled when I screeched that Wifey was a moron for hurtling me round like I was bloody Jane Torvill, I left the rink, sore and tired but generally of a less curmudgeonly demeanour than when I had started.

Today, Gordon Brown skated confidently onto the wafer-thin ice of the floor of the House of Commons to deliver his pre-Budget report. Apart from the standard combination of Brownite overspending covered up with Blairite massaging of the figures, there was a phenomenal piece of opportunism. Having blamed all of his miscalculations and the gloomy outlook on high oil prices, he announced a doubling of the windfall tax on North Sea oil profits.

At a time when the majors are looking for new profit centres and have lots of cash to invest, he decided, without any consultation, to raid £6.5 billion from them over the next 3 years.

So what, they make loads of money anyway, right? Firstly, this does not justify covering up the mistakes he has made and New Labour's pouring of endless piles of cash into the black hole of our public services by stealing the money. Secondly, it's very short-sighted and will probably cost Britain a lot more in the long-term.

For a start, he's missing out on a chunk of corporation tax from where that money would have filtered through to the bottom line. Also the majors will have to hold on to some of the profits to replace the working capital he is depriving them, so shareholders will not be paying as much CGT or tax on dividends to Mr Brown from that end. Most importantly, he is taking away what little incentive there was for the majors to invest in a depleting region, thus depriving the country of jobs and stability of supply of oil and gas.

Suddenly my own performance on the ice looks a lot more assured. Mr Brown seems to have gone crashing straight through it.

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