Colin Montgomery: Through the looking glass to Austerityland 2082

Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares his speech. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares his speech. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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Given the tidal wave of nonsense that passes for reality at times, I sometimes feel like taking a walk through the looking glass in search of refuge in the world of fantasy.

But then again, a lot of us have it relatively easy as we deal with first-world problems like the odd run on courgettes and avocados.

All you have to do is read the latest news about some trouble spot or other across the world to realise that. And there are many who are up against it right here, right now in Scotland – not to mention across the rest of the UK. Hey, we’re all in this together right?

This is the bit where you turn the Evening News into furious confetti, as in, “what the hell is he digging out old political slogans for? He did that last week! And the week before!” No, you needn’t endure another righteous rant.

But what is worthy of discussion this week is Chancellor Phillip ­Hammond’s attempt to find some magic inside that little red box of his – listen carefully and you’ll just about hear Julian Clary guffawing somewhere as that sentence practically oozed from the keyboard.

I don’t want to dive into the politically charged macro and micro-economics of the whole autumn statement shebang – that’s for tomorrow’s papers as they scoop up the remains and attempt to give it a send-off. Then again, by the time you read this, the truth will be out and it may be that old Spreadsheet Phil has pulled a rabbit from the hat.

After all, that’s what good old George Osborne used to do right? I mean the rabbit was usually dead. And cat-shaped. And belonged to shadowy Aussie political fixer, Lynton Crosby – technically, he’s a ‘Sir’, but I always see him as more a night creature than a knight creature. So my hat remains undoffed.

Yes, the infamous dead cat strategy patented by strategist Crosby seemed to work wonders for the ex-Chancellor Osborne. He would stand up, barely concealing the smugness that only an Eton schoolboy can bring and deploy his trump card. Ever tricksier schemes designed to rend the enemy asunder, reshape the narrative and stay one step ahead of an ever-weaker opposition (I dare you to try saying that in the voice of Gollum from Lord of the Rings; where is Andy Serkis when you need him?). It was a schtick that quickly become old and tired though.

There are only so many laughs you can squeeze out of austerity politics perhaps. But what about the future? Yeah, let’s embrace a little fantasy and turn that little red box into a time machine.

Once we’ve made our way past Pandora’s butterfly of hope – now being munched by one of the Downing Street cats no doubt – we may discover there’s a wormhole to what lies ahead. I’m sure the bold Brexiteers would love to see the sunlit uplands that await us. Yeah, I bet old BoJo might be up for it. But despite those occasional jogs alongside aged tabloid editors, he’s still carrying a bit of timber. Plus his blonde ambition is so vast, he would struggle to fit through such a tight aperture (I refer the honourable reader to the Julian Clary comment above).

So let’s take this journey ourselves via the medium of printed newspaper. Buckle up folks for we as are about to take a thrilling sneak peek – stay with me – into Budget 2082.

Pensions and Welfare: State-pension will now kick in when you hit 93. Although you may not qualify for it as you’ll still be shuffling down the aisles, doing your part-time stint at your local DIY store, sharing cough drops with your sprightly 68-year-old customers. That’s when they can be bothered popping in. Those young whippersnappers are all ‘work work work’ these days. That caravan of twigs won’t pay for itself!

Tobacco and alcohol: Alcohol is a sore point in any number of ways for Scots; we’ve had a troubled relationship with it since the first major drinking session in Eden. But in the future this will cease to be an issue. With all the chlorinated chicken we can eat, our bleached tastebuds won’t know a single malt from an Appletize, meaning true booze or fags no longer exist. Except for a secret supply in a bunker in Fife, in the event of national emergencies. Such as when the Krankies embark on their 2082 tour.

Housing and environment: After years of under-investment, politics gets to grips with the pressing issue of climate change. Yes, there’s a special reduction in stamp duty for houseboats, canoes and bathtubs! Which is all we’ll have left, bar the cairn at the top of Ben Nevis. And that might get a bit crowded. I would put my money on it. But I fear by then, we’ll be using beads and goats. If you’re still around in 2082, good luck.