Tactical Briefing

From: The Unit

To: GB

Subject: Budget ideas/Mandelson toying

So - pretty good week. Budget seemed to go well. The strategy we formulated in Feb of keeping all government activities, announcements and appearances as un-eyecatching and flavourless as possible seems to be working. If we can blend in with the national habitat to the extent that people stop remarking on us, then maybe - like Last of the Summer Wine, the Oxford-Cambridge boat race and Bedfordshire - we can become one of those elements of national life that people neither like nor dislike but accept and assume will carry on for ever.

However, in the event of the public's mood changing, we did have a bit of a think about eye-catching proposals we might float to counter the feeling that we are a bunch of undertakers driving the country along a death march to the morgue (not our words but taken from a recent focus group). So - a few ideas came up:

Wealth bonus: Think John Hutton's recent line about us being prepared to celebrate not condemn huge salaries was good. It's counter-intuitive, it annoys the core vote and it has a thrilling edge of apparent immorality about it.

The idea would be to show we really back wealth creation and entrepreneurialism by offering a government cash bonus to very high earners at the end of each tax year. Obviously a £10-15,000 ex gratia payment would be relatively insignificant to the rich themselves in comparison to their massive incomes - while being a huge drain on the revenue. But the cuts it would entail would send out a powerful message about our priorities, and also counter the sense that we care only about poor and depressing people.

4x4 humiliation: Could the drivers of "Chelsea tractors" be compelled to paint something unpleasant on the sides of their cars? A measure like this could rally traditional supporters infuriated by policies such as the wealth bonus above.

There are all sorts of economic arguments against discouraging the use of these vehicles, but a class-war attack might make everyone feel better without needing to distort the car market. Owners might have to paint "twit" or "twonk" on to the sides of the vehicles. In a sort of fun form of Cultural Revolution activity, people might be encouraged to boo and moon at them when they drive down roads.

Other diversionary thoughts:

Mandelson: Re your toying with him like a bloodied mouse. This is obviously a hell of a lot of fun. And think it plays brilliantly however we approach it. The suggestion that you might let him stay on as European commissioner for another term makes you look big-hearted - the opposite of the mean-minded grudge-holder no one assumes you are. But similarly, when we crush him with announcements that he won't be staying on, then it feels like the nation as a whole shares a little bit in our joy at seeing his hopes and dreams destroyed.

Let us know your thoughts.

This article first appeared in the 24 March 2008 issue of the New Statesman, The truth about Tibet