When George Osborne steps up to the despatch box on Wednesday the nation holds its collective breath as we wait to discover our economic fate. Essentially, that means how much more a packet of fags, a pint, and a litre of petrol is going to cost us come April.
One group will be paying particular attention to the Chancellor’s speech. No, not high-earning bankers, not owners of small business, not even one-legged single mothers from Runcorn. No, it is degenerate spread bettors who will be hanging on every plummy syllable.
As if to prove the notion that you can bet on pretty much anything, Sporting Index, as has become traditional, are offering a number of markets on the content of that famous red box. Don’t worry, it’s nothing so highbrow as spreads on percentage reductions in stamp duty or child tax credits (leave that stuff to the spivs at the city firms); Sporting lets you punt on what really matters – the number of sips of water Osborne takes (4.2-4.8) or shouts of “Order Order!” from the honourable speaker (0.4-0.6).
In a somewhat worrying reflection of political priority Sporting estimates that our George will utter the word “tax” between 90 and 95 times, but “education” only 3 to 4. As if more proof were needed of the nation’s perilous deficit, Sporting goes 34-37 on mentions of “billion” but only 16-18 on mentions of “million”.
It’s difficult to recommend a strategy on these political novelty markets, and I’m certainly not going to sit through the previous 5 budgets making notes of every time “Euro” has been mentioned. Have a punt on what you fancy – what’s the worst that can happen? We’re all going to be poorer.
Sips of water: 5 (op: 4.2-4.8)
“Order, order!”: 4 (op: 0.4-0.6!)
Tax: 119 (90-95)