My Budget Day routine is the same every year. Isn’t everyone’s?
I prepare three coloured highlighters – bright green, neon pink and a daring blue. Two pens, one pencil and the Anglo Irish Bank stress ball gifted to me a decade ago after a raid on their shuttered basement uncovered boxes of paraphernalia stamped with the logo of that less-than-august institution.
It turned out, like the defunct bank itself, not to be worth anything on eBay, so I bring it with me to remind myself at intervals why our taxes are so high.
Add in the laptop, chargers for everything and a sandwich (there is never time to pop out for lunch, given the inconvenient timing of the actual speech), and the lot goes into my special ‘Budget Bag’ (okay, possibly a step too far). I board the Number 16 bus to spend the day in the newsroom as my colleagues and I cover all the angles, from political to social to financial.
I love the buzz, the will-they-won’t-they, the kite flying. We get to parse, analyse and explain in exceptionally quick order to readers and listeners what just happened and what it means.
I’m vaguely aware that in some far-flung corners of normality not everybody is on tenterhooks. Extraordinary, but there you go. Indeed, I’m still reeling from the shock of phoning a pal on the way home last year to excitedly discuss one of the more arcane of Paschal Donohoe’s measures, only for her to say: “Oh, the Budget. Was that today?”
Or the family member who called to ask “what it all meant” for them. “Which part?” I asked. “Well, any of it. I wasn’t really paying attention, it’s so boring.”
They’re both now blocked from all phone lists and social media.
You’ll probably agree that the top-billing tax bands and excise duties is the really exciting stuff, but you’ll still find me carving out time to bury into the tariffs on beef imports or the changes to allowable milligrams of CO2 emissions.
The devil, as they say, is in the detail. Often, so much detail that it entirely bypasses the ministers responsible. The post-Budget press conferences tend to be high on, well, highlights, and all too short on nitty gritty.
The truly revelatory stuff won’t come until the Finance Bill is published. Bet you can’t wait, right?
There are some who claim that the day itself is just a bit of silly theatre, but who doesn’t love panto? There’s Paschal the Prince playing Aladdin or Dick Whittington, depending on the magic envelopes at his disposal. Then there’s the opposition baddies with their pre-written scripts, spluttering in indignation. There is a beanstalk of riches (this year anyway), a confusing plot line and plenty of cheers and boos along the way.
So, as you emerge this morning from all the excitement, what’s your take? Did you win? Did you lose? In case you spent yesterday under a rock, the answer, as it is every year, is yes.
Enjoy today’s 24-page special supplement. It was a joy, and one hell of a job, to pull together.