What planet is George Osborne on? It's a reasonable question.
I'm reminded of Star Trek, when the team would arrive on other worlds where everything looked weirdly different, and yet the inhabitants breathed oxygen and spoke English. The buildings might resemble mosques designed by Salvador Dali, and the native creatures had purple skins and gills – but enough about Tory backbenchers.
In the same way, Planet Osborne has some similarities to our own, as we learned at Treasury questions. Yes, the stock market is climbing. Yes, more people are in work, even if it's only making sandwiches. But the pound continues to crash, manufacturing is down again, the debt spirals like a tornado at an Oklahoma trailer site, the triple dip looms and the balance of payments deficit would make you ill if you looked it up.
Yet on that strange and distant chunk of rock, all is well. Claire Perry of Devizes, a Conservative MP who would make Pollyanna sound like a crabby old fishwife, chirruped that KPMG had just named Britain as the best country in the world to do business! The very best! The Grand Mekon of Planet Osborne, Osborne himself, agreed. "We are ahead of Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, as well, of course, the United States, France and Germany!" (I loved the "of course", as if it's something we can all agree on, like this nippy weather.)
Churlish Labour MPs pointed out that Osborne's first and most crucial test of his own success was safeguarding our credit rating, which has now gone. But on Planet Osborne, that is no disaster. In fact, it is good news! It proves that the Great Mekon's policies are working better than ever. "You see, Captain Kirk, when we set ourselves a target and we miss it, it only proves how essential it was for us to aim for the target in the first place. If we descend to a 'junk' rating, it will be the culmination of my success. Here on Osborne, that is simple logic."
Captain Kirk: "Blimey. So you never fail?"
Osborne: "We never ever fail."
No, indeed. Take Danny Alexander, number 2 on Planet Osborne, who was being questioned by Labour about the rise in petrol, the result of the falling pound – undoubtedly another triumph. His reply: "The hon gent should not run away from the fact that the ratchet on fuel prices was baked into the public finances."
What? "Now, captain, we should like you to enjoy one of our delicious pastries for your breakfast, VAT-free since the last budget disaster. You will find a fuel price ratchet baked inside. Children compete to be the one who gets the ratchet …"
As I say, a grotesque place. Time to get back on the Enterprise!
I popped along to the liaison committee in which chairpersons grill the prime minister, lightly. He did not say a lot. But he was wearing union jack cufflinks. It seems likely that he had worn them for a photo-call of him phoning the chairman of the Falkland Islands legislature about the referendum. Which leaves the question, does he have the right cufflinks for everyone he phones? And what does he wear for a call to Planet Osborne?
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