Friday, 26 February 2010

Numbers …

Defendit numerus:
     (there is safety in numbers).
Latin Proverb



Wednesday is usually my day to entertain myself with the 'Funny Half-Hour' on television, otherwise known as PMQ's (Prime Minister's Questions). It is staged in that wonderfully quaint vaudeville venue called 'The House' (of Commons).

Last Wednesday, the usual suspects were there, and the line of questioning almost scripted itself considering the disclosures about Gordon Brown's alleged bullying tactics within 10 Downing Street AND the Sky interview that the Chancellor, Alistair Darling gave on the Tuesday before, in which he coined the phrase, "[Number 10] released the dogs of Hell," when discussing the cabinet reshuffle that almost ousted him from his job a few months earlier!

Now, I expect 'The Chancellor of the Exchequer' to be able to take care of himself, or what the hell is he doing in that job handling my money? My short-lived sympathy was for those precious individuals called 'Civil (Snivel) Servants' who apparently were so troubled by being bawled out that they resorted to contacting a 'Bullying Help-Line'! Is it any wonder the country is in the mess it is if we are being led, and supported by, such shrinking violets?


Friends ... ?


But I digress. The topic that provoked this outburst was the little discussed publication of the 'Government Spending Forecast' for 2010. As you would expect, it is filled with numbers, graphs, footnotes and endnotes, and any sane person should end up with a glazed look working their way through it long before coming to the end. I suspect that is precisely what the money-pundits rely on when they choose to 'hide' some facts that they find difficult to explain. Like this ...


Numbers ... ?


Ermmmm..., excuse me, what does 'OTHER SPENDING' consist of that isn't already covered by the other headings?

Excuse me, again, while I trot off to look up the term 'slush fundslush fund

A colloquial term which has come to mean an auxiliary monetary account or a reserve fund. However, the term has special meaning within a context of corrupt (including but not limited to) political dealings by governments, large corporations or other bodies and individuals.

The term 'slush fund' is also used in accounting to refer to a general ledger account in which all manner of transactions can be posted to commingled funds and 'loose' monies by debits and credits cancelling each other out.

Originally a nautical term; the slush referred to the fat or grease that was obtained by boiling salted meat, the sale of which could then be used to provide the crew with special luxuries. The money obtained from this sale was placed into the so-called 'slush-fund'.

Thank you, Wikipedia.


If 84 billion is a number that is beyond your comprehension, as it is mine, let me fall back on a simplistic table of my own to try and put it into perspective. If we approach it as a pseudo-mathematical problem, where you have borrowed a vast amount of money and you are required to pay it back at a pound (insert your own currency here) a second, how long will it take you to repay:

  1. 1,000,000 (one million) pounds?
  2. 1,000,000,000 (one billion) pounds?

Don't fret. I know the 'problem' is unrealistic, but I have done the calculations using that scenario to make a point ...


(GBP or any other)
60 1 minute
3,600 1 hour
86,400 1 day
(one million)
11.5 days
(one billion)
< 32 years (31.715)


Staggering, or what?

And these guys talk glibly of owing many billions of pounds, sometimes even mentioning the awful 'T' word - trillions.

I won't even go there ...

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