OSBORNE’S AUSTERITY CHRISTMAS: A CHEAP TREE AND EMPTY RED BOX

FOLLOWING on from The Capitalist’s report yesterday on what George Osborne will be collecting in taxes from you this season, readers might be happy to know that the chancellor will himself will be enforcing an austerity Christmas on his office.

He certainly had a sorry Christmas tale to tell at yesterday’s lunch with the political reporters of the Westminster lobby. Incensed by the costliness of the usual treasury Christmas tree, last year coming in at £875 due to a “PFI scheme”, he announced that this year would see a festive austerity drive.

But, as with everything in government, it proved more complicated than anticipated.

His permanent private secretary – the chancellor’s chief assistant – was soon on the case with an email entitled “Facts about the Christmas tree”. It turned out the tree was typically chosen from a catalogue provided by a contracted private company, whose options ranged from “indulgence” to “decadence”, with a bespoke tree available for a maximum of £875.

Should the chancellor choose to go outside the designated provider, his assistant listed a variety of concerns, including “who will dress the tree”, “how will we get it into the building (will we need a van?)”, “who will water the tree if required” and “where will we find a ladder to decorate it”.

Cue a full-blown government kerfuffle over “the line to take” regarding departmental Christmas trees. Soon, the Cabinet Office was sending out an email entitled: “Christmas Tree (unclassified)”, with a policy designed to “give appropriate wiggle room while striking OK tone”. Suffice to say, they got the tree donated.

Meanwhile, the chancellor also had some shocking revelations about the budget: it turns out that the red budget box waved by many a chancellor outside Downing Street is in fact empty. The key was lost many years ago, making the whole spectacle an elaborate charade.

So when the Opposition next tells you that government promises on tax are “empty”, there might be something more to their claims than political point-scoring.

FLASHERS
Outrageous news reaches The Capitalist’s inbox! I’m told that recent months have brought a tumultuous variety of dinner guests to one high-end City restaurant.

The proprietor was in touch to report that she has “seen three willies, a ring being chucked into the Thames and a woman screaming at me that my waiter touched her napkin”. It begged a follow-up.

The three flashers were all of different parties, it seems. One involved a rather exhibitionist fellow so inebriated that he stripped naked and jumped onto a wall facing the Thames to pose for pictures. The verdict? “Very white, very small... bearing in mind it was about -1C.” Yikes.

Meanwhile, another chap seemed to have trouble finding the men’s in his befuddled state. Luckily our restaurateur was on the ball, so to speak, stopping him before he peed on her property.

Yet another party included a guy insistent upon calling himself “gorgeous Graham”, but other details were scarce.

So who were these indecent fellows? Do you know them? Get in touch.

TRADER’S DELIGHT
Better act fast – the WorldSpreads £100,000 trading competition closes today and it has already registered 100 winners. The contest offers a share of the £100,000 money pot for those able to make ten consecutive profitable trades, with the profit having to be at least five points. The betting provider reports that markets with the tightest spreads were, unsurprisingly, the most popular, with many involving zero-point spreads. And it wasn’t just professional traders – many were making bets from home. “To win this competition ten years ago,” said WorldSpreads chief executive Conor Foley, “you needed a Reuters feed and a cabbie with inside knowledge. Now the financial markets are open to all.” The big society in action, surely?

TAKING THE BISCUIT
We’ve all heard of workers being taken out for a day by a sick child requiring care, but an excuse given by one fund manager at a well-known firm recently really takes the biscuit.

Having sent his beloved dog off to a “canine boot camp” to try and purge the animal of its misbehaviour, he was urgently called to drive many miles to pick up the pooch after the trainer called him to report that her husband had left her and she was too distraught to drive.

“This one stretches the bounds of credulity to new levels,” reports our source, “but is probably true as it’s just a bit too fanciful! Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.”

HAPPY CHANUKAH
Finally, last night saw the final light being illuminated on the Canary Wharf menorah for the eigth night of Chanukah.

Chanukah sameach!