UK to impose VAT to sausage rolls, toasted sandwiches, Cornish pasties and samosas
April, 02nd 2012
Spring, they tell you, is the season for green shoots and things like that. Green shoots, now though, no longer stand for the spirit of spring, but for a highly-annoying cliche periodically favoured by economic types and ministers when they want to talk up markets.
The green shoots of the real type, despite dire warnings from various environmental and other such nature societies, are, unlike the aforementioned dignitaries, reliably doing their job - springing out of barren winter branches, covering cherry trees with blossom, and parks and fields with daisies and daffodils.
When it comes to economies though, it might be far more useful to use withered leaves and blasted heath metaphors. The world economy is umm, hmm, meandering along, rather badly actually, and clearly nobody wants to think about it any more, and are turning their attention to other more important things.
Like pasty or samosa taxes, one of those deliciously British palavers that sometimes makes it worth my while to suffer the horrible weather, and cheers me up no end. All of last week, first we had lots of outrage about the fact that David Cameron has dinner with some of the biggest donors to his party. Ho hum.
Never mind India, American politicians raise their political funds completely openly, with mega-priced dinners where the idea, obviously is that political sponsors get to meet their candidates. The Brits have this extremely peculiar attitude to their politicians. They expect them to behave like they're all living in some Himalayan monastery, and at the same time be canny masters of realpolitik.
And then we had the pasty tax. The amount of media space and general discussion devoted to George Osborne's last budget was totally overshadowed by one obscure move. The UK government wants to add VAT to "hot takeaway food". That is, the sausage rolls, toasted sandwiches, Cornish pasties and samosas etc that sandwich shops or supermarkets heat up in a microwave before selling it to you.
Opposition leaders marched off to defiantly eat sausage rolls in front of cameras, the PM was grilled on his allegedly faulty memory of when he last ate a hot roll, the Cornish are in an uproar claiming thousands of west country (Devon and Cornwall) jobs are at risk and so on.
That last one I find the most puzzling, because frankly, Cornish pasty outlets are far more ubiquitous in the rest of England than in Cornwall or Devon. I know, I've gone on pasty hunts in Cornwall. The funniest one is how sellers are going to decide on whether to charge VAT or not, because the temperature of what would be classified as hot would change depending on the weather.
And then of course, a random minister told everyone to store up petrol in jerrycans, because truckers were planning to strike over Easter, which resulted in a nationwide panic at petrol pumps, and one woman burnt herself trying to pour petrol from a jerrycan into a glass jar in her kitchen with the gas on. Sigh. Truckers now say they aren't striking, and fire safety people want the minister to resign.
Pastiegate, as it is being called, has topped up what is a horrible week for UK's coalition government, and embarrassed the Tories no end. On top of everything else, the OECD has said the UK is heading back into recession, which would make a complete hash of Osborne's famous Plan A for the economy. Osborne is probably hoping to get some relief by running off the India next week for a day.
He can put out some of the usual platitudes, and hope to get some decent headlines in the UK media, after recycling a few old deals as highlights. As an aside, what exactly he's hoping to achieve on this visit is rather obscure, since the annual Jetco jamboree is actually scheduled for later this month in London.