Friday 22 February 2008

The mother of hangovers though not of Parliaments

No idea; I dread to think; 1,442; Westminster.

I have what might be described as the mother of all hangovers. Yet somehow I get through a meeting at my bank to talk about theoretically important things like pensions and inheritance tax. This serves only to underline the fact that I am not particularly interested in money, which is doubtless why I never made anything like as much of it in 25 years in the City as most of my contemporaries. A pension seems pretty irrelevant, given the above assessment of my life expectancy; and even if deathclock turns out to be wrong, the pathetic size of my fund and the pitiful rates of return currently available make the chances that I will ever enjoy a comfortable retirement appear laughably small. As for tax, I’ve never objected to paying it since Nigel Lawson abolished the ludicrous, confiscatory top rates, and I feel particularly relaxed about one which will only be levied after I am dead. Having said that, I obviously do object to most of the things that the Government then wastes my money on, and would much prefer a hypothecated system which allowed me to direct all my tax payments into a fund for the construction of a new Royal yacht.

It seems very odd to me that participation in so much of the tax system has effectively become voluntary. Starting at the bottom of society with the Lottery, which is a voluntary tax on stupidity, and going all the way up to capital gains and inheritance taxes, which anyone with a bit of nous seems to be able to evade in their entirety. It pains me to sympathize with a chump like Alistair Darling, who is obviously floundering way out of his depth, but even as a right-wing Tory I find the squeals of pain about his “80% hike” in CGT rather overblown, considering 18% actually a pretty reasonable rate. Similarly my reaction to the threats of “non-doms” to flee the country if they are forced to pay up is one of “good riddance”.

This evening auntie and I go to the dinner of a literary society of which I have long been a member, though I joined in order to accumulate a set of books rather than to enhance my social life. The appeal of the evening was that it was being held in the House of Lords, which my aunt had never visited. We had a tour of the premises led by a man who knew rather too much detail (not all of it accurate) and who fancied himself as a comedian. Though he misses the obvious one about the sign on the lavatory door reading “Peers”. On the whole, I don’t think Ken Dodd needs to start worrying yet. Then we had dinner in that marquee-like structure on the terrace. Fine views, indifferent food and rather a struggle to make conversation. The trouble with all societies like these is that they attract obsessives to start with, and their popular events are attended by those whose obsession is at its most extreme: the sort of people who have nothing better to do than to stand by the letter box and fire off a cheque by return of post when the application form comes on. How on earth I ended up here must remain a mystery. I shall merely observe that there appears to be an exception to nearly every known rule.

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