It hadn’t been a good night for The Undertaker. He’d always prided himself on being a safe pair of hands. The man who could dispose of bodies with little fuss. And he thought he’d done a decent enough number on the budget. Steady as she goes, mind the rocks and all that. The prime minister had even laughed at his crap gags. Then all hell had broken loose. The rightwing press had gone for him and Theresa had stopped taking his calls. The Undertaker was being hung out to dry.
And it was about to get a lot worse. He’d imagined that disappearing to Dudley would get him off the hook, but the media had managed to hunt him down. Still, at least Good Morning Britain shouldn’t be too tough a gig. Usually, it just involved Piers Morgan talking about himself. Sod’s law. It wasn’t Piers.
“Everyone’s unhappy that you’ve broken an election promise,” said presenter Ben Shepherd.
“I haven’t,” the Undertaker mumbled.
“Yes, you have.”
“We could argue about this all day.” Just keep talking. Any old nonsense about social care and stuff he didn’t really care about, just to stop that idiot from ITV getting a word in.
“Any more tax rises on the way?” chipped in Susanna Reid.
Bad line. Can’t hear you. Sorry. That went well.
Next up was Charlie Stayt on BBC Breakfast.
“Why did you break that specific pledge?” asked Stayt.
“We legislated for this in 2015,” said The Undertaker. When in doubt, keep digging. The first rule of any funeral director worth his salt. “We said what we would do and we’ve done it.”
“Are you insulting people’s intelligence?”
“Why is it so difficult to say you have broken your pledge?”
Because it was all a giant cock up. Neither Theresa nor he had actually read the Conservative manifesto in 2015, so when a few wonks in the Treasury had suggested putting up class 4 NICs, he had just signed it off.
“This didn’t happen yesterday, it happened in 2015,” said the Undertaker. La, la, la. The budget had never happened. Time travel had transported him to a parallel universe. One where people treated him with respect.
“Why does everyone think you are a liar?”
“You’re interrupting me.”
That at least was something both the Undertaker and Stayt could agree on.
It was now time for the big one. Nick Robinson on the Today programme on Radio 4. Blood would flow. If only he had chosen the embalming option.
“Why don’t you just say, ‘Yes, I done it and I apologise’?” said Robinson, not bothering to conceal the enjoyment in his voice.
“We made it clear … We legislated for that.” The Undertaker’s voice tailed off. He wasn’t that sure about anything any more.
“You’ve already said that,” observed Robinson.
“And I’ll say it again.”
“But it’s still not true.”
Robinson referred him to pages five, nine and 11 of the Tory manifesto. Surely it was impossible to deny he had said something during an election campaign and was now unsaying it?
The Undertaker paused for thought. It might be impossible to deny it, but it wasn’t going to stop him trying. “It’s basically all Labour’s fault,” he said. “We legislated for it even though we didn’t and if Labour hadn’t liked it they should have tabled amendments or voted against it.” Labour should have second guessed that the Tories were going to break their promises and tried to stop them.
That was the Undertaker’s high point of the interview. From then on, it was all downhill. Why hadn’t he bothered to mention Brexit in his budget? Because it was a complete cluster-fuck and he was hoping to avoid it for as long as he could. Fool.
“Um, I’m quite constrained,” the Undertaker blustered. “Brexit presents new challenges.” Whoop. That was dangerously close to admitting he had screwed up.
“So you’re making White Man Van pay for voting for Brexit.”
Someone had to. “White Man Van is now getting a state pension.”
“But you knew that before the last election.”
But he didn’t know he was going to be chancellor then.
Robinson moved on. Since he had the Undertaker on the line, perhaps he would like to apologise for breaking two other manifesto pledges: operating a budget surplus by 2020 and not leaving the single market.
“You’re basically saying to the country, ‘Would you like some ice and lemon in your gin and tonic while the plane flies into the side of a mountain?’,” Robinson continued.
The Undertaker shrugged. He had just seen the latest report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and everyone was going to be broke for at least another 10 years. It was just beginning to dawn on The Undertaker that the grave he had been digging was his own.