On the eve of his departure for a meeting of EU leaders, it was smiles all round from Gordon Brown as he announced that the credit crunch was over.
“The spectre of economic ruin has vanished forever,” beamed the Prime Minister as stock exchanges rose slightly due to somebody somewhere buying some bargain-basement shares.
Mr Brown was dismissive of the simultaneous announcements of consumer inflation reaching 5.2% and house sales at a 30-year low, saying that these were not, and never had been, reliable indicators of economic performance.
“The consumer price index is just some made-up number that bears no relation to everyday life,” he scoffed. “It doesn’t even take account of everyday items such as online music sales or eBay auctions. And people aren’t buying houses for the simple reason that, under Labour, everybody is completely happy with where they’re living right now. What’s important is to find out just who has started buying shares, and to encourage them to buy more.”
At this point an aide rushed in and told the PM that the shares being bought were in fact preferential shares in Britain’s ailing high street banks - and they were being bought by his government as part of their emergency rescue deal, which is being underwritten by the taxpayer and financed by unprecedented levels of borrowing on the international market.
“Oh, bugger,” said Mr Brown.