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  • A Chancellor’s Carol

    17 December 2021

    Tax Dog channels her inner Dickens in her take on this yuletide favourite

    Stave I – Javid’s Ghost

    Low tax guy was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by Osborne, Hammond and Javid. Sunak signed it. And Sunak’s name was good upon ‘change for anything he chose to put his hand to’. Low tax guy was as dead as a doornail.

    Oh! But he was a loose-fisted hand at the grindstone, Sunak! A Furloughing, Universal Credit clawing, Corporation tax raising, NIC increasing, retrospectively legislating, Nil-rate band squeezing young sinner!

    Once upon a time – of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve – young Sunak sat at his desk in his office at number 11. We know this for he made sure a photographer was there so he could post the pictures on Instagram.

    “A merry and low-tax Christmas, Chancellor” cried a cheerful voice. It was John O’Connell from the Taxpayer’s Alliance.

    “Bah!” said Sunak. “Humbug!” 

    “Low-tax a humbug, Chancellor!?” You don’t mean that, I’m sure?

    “I do”, said Sunak. “Low tax Christmas! How can we have low taxes when I have to ‘balance the books’ and ‘Level-up’ at the same time.

    “Don’t be angry, Mr Sunak” said Mr O’Connell “You’re a Tory Chancellor, and one of us. Please come and dine with us tomorrow?”

    “While you prattle on about ‘lowering tax’ and ‘kick starting the economy!?” said Sunak “Good Afternoon!”

    Mr O’Connell left without an angry word. But in letting himself out he let two others in. One woman and one man. Both gaunt and, although they looked like they had once seen much better times, they were, metaphorically speaking, appeared somewhat frayed around the edges.

    “At this festive season of the year, Mr Sunak” said the lady, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the members of Excluded UK, who have suffered greatly over recent times. Many millions are in want of common necessaries, Sir”

    “Is there no SEIS?” asked Sunak.

    “Not for those running a limited Company” said the lady laying down her pen.

    “Was there no furlough?” demanded Sunak

    “Only for their employees. The owners of the business took dividends as they were only at liberty to extract profits from the business. Dividends weren’t eligible for furlough.”

    “Was there no Bounce-back loan?” scoffed Sunak.

    “Funnily enough, many business owners might not feel it’s a good idea to take out loans they might not be able to repay. Judging by the levels of fraud, I’m not sure that allowing people to take loans for Companies by ticking a handful of boxes on a form was a great idea”

    “I can’t afford to make everyone merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough: and those who are badly off must use them”

    “But I’ve said, many can’t go there… and many would rather no longer be self-employed!”

    “…If they would rather not be self-employed” said Sunak “then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population… of those who are not on PAYE”

    Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue the point, Excluded UK withdrew. 

    The hour grew late, and Sunak decided to retire to his Chambers in the flat above Number 10. This involved him making the short journey next door. 

    Now, it is a fact that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door. Let it be known that Sunak had not bestowed one thought on Javid since that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Sunak, saw in the knocker old Javid’s face.

    “I know him! Javid’s ghost!” and he fell to the floor. “Who are you?”

    “Ask me who I was”

    “Who were you then?”

    “In life I was your predecessor… and a low tax kinda guy”

    Sunak, now on his knees, clasped his hands before his face. “Mercy!” he said “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

    “I said I was a low-tax guy… I used to be one. It is even reported I used a tax avoidance scheme when I worked at Deutsche Bank. But, when I became Chancellor, despite saying wanting to hold on to more of your own money was a basic human instinct, I still supported the loan charge and the changes to IR35. Oh woe is me.”

    “Why are you here” trembled Sunak

    “You will be haunted by Three Spirits. Without their visits” said Javid’s ghost “you cannot hope to shun the path of Tax and Spend.. Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls one.”

    “Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third, upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate.”

    “So, let me get this right, the last visit will be at 1am on the 27th?”

    “Well, you might think that. But that’s not how the story plays out. You will actually wake up after the last visit on Christmas morning. Not sure how that one works out. I guess us spirits can bend time… a bit like the government has done with the loan charge”.

    With that, the spirit drifted out through the open window into the mist and Sunak fell asleep upon the instant.

    Stave II – The first of the three spirits

    When Sunak awoke it was so dark, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber.

    “Ding, dong!”

    “The hour itself,” said Sunak triumphantly “and nothing else!” 

    But he spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did and light flashed up in the room upon the instant and the curtains of his bed were drawn and he found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor.

    It was a strange figure – like a child; yet not so like a child as like a middle-aged man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions.

    It’s eye-glasses were black and thick. Its hair slicked back. His face, without a wrinkle in it, had a rubber-like quality. He had the appearance of a man who would not naturally be taken to be witnessed dancing in Yates’ Wine Lodge, but at the same time might be so viewed.

    “Are you the spirit, Sir, whose coming was foretold to me?”

    “I am the ghost of Taxes Past”

    “Long past?” enquired Sunak

    “No, your past”

    The Spirit put out one of its short limbs and clasped Sunak gently by the arm. “Rise! And walk with me!”

    Suddenly, Sunak found himself in an opulent, wood-panelled room. There were pictures of somebodies on the walls.

    “Why, it’s Winchester College” exclaimed Sunak in ecstasy. “It’s dear old honest Winchester College. Ghost, do you know that five Tory chancellors before me have been Wykehamists”

    The Ghost smiled thoughtfully and waved its hand “Let’s see another Christmas”.

    As the words were spoken they passed through the wall and into a busy corporate office. The name Goldman Sachs was mounted on the wall. The office was filled with boys and girls, who were in great spirits and shouted to each other about their bonuses until the desk-filled office were so full o’ merry music, that the crisp a/c air laughed to hear it. 

    “You recollect this?” enquired the Spirit.

    “Remember it!” cried Sunak with fervour. “Goldman’s! That great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity. Heady days, Spirit! No thoughts of ‘levelling-up in those days, let me tell you.”

    The Spirit smiled again and waved his hand.

    They were now in a very familiar place. It was 10 Downing Street. The calendar on the wall said 18 December 2020.

    The place was familiar. However, the figures occupying this place fluctuated in their distinctiveness. Light one instant and then another time dark. One minute there was cheese and wine and, the next, it had dissolved into the shadows.

    “Why are the images of these people and objects behaving in this manner?” asked Scrooge.

    “I do not know” said the Ghost. “It is almost as if there are forces greater than myself at work here.”

    “Is my one-year younger self here?” said Sunak in a slightly concerned tone.

    “I don’t know” said the ghost. Again, my powers are somewhat fettered. “However, I have received assurances that all rules were followed”.

    “Assurances from whom?”

    “Don’t ask that question!” said the Spirit.

    “Why are we here?” puzzled Sunak, expertly changing the subject.

    “I’m afraid that the writer really had to jemmy it in somewhere.”

    “Leave me. Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

    Suddenly, Sunak was back in his chambers, overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, he fell asleep.

    Stave III – The second of the three spirits

    Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, Sunak had no occasion to be told that the bell would strike one again.

    However, strike one it did. Upon the instant, Sunak’s room was bathed in light

    Heaped upon the floor to form a throne were Pot Noodles, Peperamis, Mars Bars, Snickers, Kit Kats, Wine Gums, Twiglets, Jaffa Cakes, Pringles, Bourneville chocolate and other confectionary amongst what appeared to be a pile of expense receipts.

    In easy state upon this couch, was a jolly, but far from giant, man. His face was puce in colour and he appeared to be dressed in a territorial army uniform. The garments were a little tight over his rotund frame.

    In one hand, he held a loft a book entitled “Spartan Victory” as if it was some kind of Brexit-fuelled torch.

    “I am the ghost of Taxes Present!” said the Spirit. “Look upon me”.

    “Spirit” said Sunak submissively, conduct me where you will. Let me profit by it.

    “Touch my combat jacket!”

    Sunak did as he was told.

    Suddenly, Sunak found himself outside lodgings in the country. The Spirit picked up some mail that was left on the doorstep. Each appeared to be some final demand for payment. From the address, it seemed like these humble lodgings were called Chequers.

    The Spirit waved to the window and Sunak looked in. Immediately, both Sunak and the Spirit were in the kitchen where a family went about their business

    A woman called Carrie seemed to be busy at work. If Sunak hadn’t have known better he would have assumed that she was conducting affairs of Government.

    Before he could think of this too hard 7 young children came running into the kitchen. “There’s father coming, cried one of the older children.”

    In came a tall, mysterious looking figure. His features were indistinguishable and his clothes were long and dark. He seemed to have bank notes stuffed into his pockets. 

    On his shoulders was a small figure. Sunak noticed from the cries from the other children that this little one’s name was Tiny Boris. Tiny Boris bore a little crutch and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.

    The father figure threw a large plump goose upon the kitchen table. The children squealed in delight, and the oldest girl exclaimed “that there never was such a goose. Was it funded by a donor, father?”

    “All rules were followed” muttered the mysterious figure.

    God bless us, every one!” said Tiny Boris.

    “Spirit” said Sunak “tell me if Tiny Boris will survive”

    “I see a vacant seat” replied the ghost “around the cabinet table.

    The Spirit took hold of Sunak and soon they were in another place. From the concrete and glass, it seemed to be a city centre. However, it was clearly the middle of the day, but there was no hustle and bustle. In fact, only a handful of people could be seen wandering around mournfully in their facemasks. It was a moribund scene. 

    “What place is this?”

    “It is a place where people used to come to drink, eat and be merry” said the Spirit. “Sadly, due to lockdown restrictions and COVID passes, people can no longer come and be merry. Many good businesses have pulled down the shutters metaphorically and literally.” The Ghost seemed to wipe a tear from his eye and bit into a freshly unwrapped Peperami Hot. “We must move on.”

    Much they saw and far they went, and many homes they visited. 

    “Forgive me” said Sunak “but I see something strange protruding from your territorial army uniform”.

    From the foldings of the uniform emerged two children, wretched, abject, miserable.

    “Spirit” cried Sunak “Are they yours?”

    “They are children of UK tax policy. Small business and the self-employed”. They used to be fat and merry. But they have had their vitality sucked out of them and now they take this much reduced form. We must take nourish and take care of them both.”

    The bell struck twelve.

    Sunak looked about him for the Ghost and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Javid.

    Lifting up his eyes, he beheld a solemn phantom, gaunt, suited, bespectacled, top-hatted coming like the mist towards him. 

    Stave IV – The last of the spirits

    The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.

    It was shrouded in dark garments, including a suit and top hat. Sunak noticed that there was a monogram embroidered on the spectre’s sleeve – JRM.

    “I am in the presence of the Ghost of Taxes yet to come?” asked Sunak.

    The Spirit answered not but pointed with his hand on the end of its supernaturally long arm.

    “Ghost of the future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen” exclaimed Sunak. “Lead on! The night is waning fast!”

    The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Sunak followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.

    They entered the City of London and the Spirit stopped by a meeting of businessmen and women of the CBI. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Sunak advanced to listen to their talk.

    “No” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it either way. I only know he’s been sacked”

    “Why, what was the matter with him” asked another.

    “God knows” said the first, with a yawn.

    “It was the raising of corporation tax that did for him” said another. “Good riddance says I”.

    The Phantom glided on into the street. Its fingers pointed to another group of men and women talking. They were very wealthy and of great (self) importance. It was the 1922 committee.

    “Well!” said one of them, “Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey?”

    “It was only a matter of time. Tax and spend! Only a matter of time” said another.

    “If only he had run with the Singapore on Thames model” said another. “Even spreadsheet Phil cottoned on to that one. And he was a Remoaner”.

    “Spirit!” said Sunak, shuddering from head to foot “I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way now. Merciful heaven, what is this?”

    The Phantom once more glided back into the street and Sunak found himself back at Chequers. The mysterious father figure, now dressed in defective PPE, had just entered the kitchen. His tea was ready for him on the hob. Two of the young children got upon his knees, and laid, each child, a little cheek against his face, as if they said, “Don’t mind it father. Don’t be grieved!” 

    “I am sure none of us will forget poor Tiny Boris – shall we?” sniffed the strange father figure. “…until we replace him with someone else.”

    The Phantom picked up a newspaper from the floor and held it up to Sunak, gesturing with that supernatural hand for him to read it.

    “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead” said Sunak. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it thus with what you show me!”

    The Spirit was as immovable as ever.

    Sunak trembling, lifted his head, following the finger, read upon the paper his own name “CABINET RESHUFFLE: SUNAK BECOMES HEALTH MINISTER”

    “No, Spirit, Oh no, no!”

    The finger was still there.

    “I will honour Conservatism in my heart. I will live in the past, present and future as a Conservative Chancellor. I will not shut out the lessons you teach. Oh tell me I may sponge away the writing in this headline.”

    The phantom collapsed underneath its spectral top hat and dwindled down into a bedpost.

    Stave V – The end of it

    Yes, and the bedpost was his own.

    “I will be a real conservative in the past, present and future” Sunak repeated. “I say it on my knees, old Javid; on my knees!”

    Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head.

    “What’s today?” cried Sunak, calling down to a boy in Sunday clothes.

    “Today!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY!”

    “Do you know the stinking rich donor in Belgravia” Sunak enquired.

    “I should hope I did” replied the lad.

    “An intelligent boy!” said Sunak “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether he still keen to allow one of the Government to use his Marbella apartment for a week at Easter?”

    “Yes, he’s incredibly keen to garner some political influence… or something”

    “Come back with the man, and I’ll give you an internship. Come back with him in less than five minutes, and I’ll make you a peer”.

    The boy was off like a shot.

    “I’ll send it to the Johnson’s” whispered Sunak, rubbing his hands, and splitting with laughter. 

    Sunak was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more. He scrapped the corporation tax rises, the increase in NICs and the new dividend tax. He abolished IR35 and, following a fully independent review, the loan charge was finally scrapped. He finally offered some support to those members of Excluded UK who had scraped by after their businesses had been decimated through no fault of their own. 

    It was always said of him that he knew how to keep conservative tax policies well.

    And so, as Tiny Boris observed. God bless us. Everyone!

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