Everybody in Britain has been put on the table by prime minister Gordon Brown as part of a daring £500bn bet on the major banks.
The scheme, which aims to boost confidence by injecting money into the moribund UK financial sector, makes £25bn available to the banks as capital loans, with another £25bn offered in exchange for preference shares, £200bn for short-term loans and £250bn in commercial loan guarantees.
These billions are in addition to the unspecified billions the government has already offered to wealthy investors and carefree councils who threw money at failed Icelandic banks after being lured by implausibly-generous interest rates.
To get some idea of the scale of Mr Brown’s generosity toward his good friends, the banks, the entire UK public spending budget for 2008/09 is £618bn.
“There’s £111bn - that’s the NHS,” said the beaming PM, casually tossing Britain’s healthcare system into the pot. “And education - that’s another £82bn. There’s the Royal Navy. That must be worth something, surely?”
If the gamble pays off, confidence in the banking sector will be restored, the banks will resume playing Monopoly with each other’s money and Britain will only face a decade or so of painfully slow growth. If it fails, however, every last one of us will belong, body and soul, to whoever comes along and buys the collapsing banks - probably either Roman Abramovitch, Thaksin Shinawatra or JK Rowling - and will be made to dance for their entertainment or clean their toilets with a toothbrush.