Budget omnishambles a winner

FOR all the economists’ trepidation over what chancellor George Osborne will say on Budget day, no one will be following his words with more zeal than the betting fraternity.

One word Ladbrokes fears it will hear is “Cyprus”, following the weekend’s surprise raid on savings. The betting firm has hastily reduced the odds on the island’s name from 4/1 to 5/4 as the topic looked more likely to edge into Osborne’s speech.

Ladbrokes is less worried about Ken Clarke falling asleep – with odds up from 3/1 last year to 16/1 on Clarke dozing off.

Spreadbetting firm Sporting Index is banking on the chancellor taking 4.6 to five sips of water and tax being mentioned 89-94 times, with punters winning or losing more the further they are from the correct total.

But in terms of Budget bingo, the biggest payouts will go to those choosing the long odds. At Ladbrokes that’s 50/1 on hearing “omnishambles” or “pasty tax” and 100/1 on “Bullingdon”. Listen closely now...

■ As elected politicans yesterday rushed to roll out radical rules restricting press freedom, the media’s more ancient foe – the monarchy – was awarding cash prizes to developers of revolutionary, free and often anonymous communication technology. Tim Berners-Lee, who created the world wide web, along with four other internet pioneers will become the first recipients of the £1m Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering, it was announced. The winners – one of whom said winning was like “waking up from a dream and discovering the geeks are winning” – will get the money, put up by 11 British and Indian firms, in June.