It had to happen sooner or later. I have, I think, managed to write an avowedly Liberal Democrat blog for some six months now without once mentioning Land Value Tax, but the day has finally dawned. 

Naturally, I don’t intend to discuss LVT in any detail. I certainly approve the principle of taxing wealth rather than income, plus lots of awfully jolly clever people I know are in favour of LVT, so we in the People’s Republic of Mortimer are content to give holding support to LVT until such time as we understand what it is. No, my interest today lies in the psychology surrounding it.

It’s a running joke in the Lib Dem blogosphere (O! how we laughed!), that race to be the first one to say “Of course, if we had LVT it wouldn’t be a problem…” in response to any sort of tax-based discussion or comment whatsoever. Only the other day Our Vince guested on Lib Dem Voice for a well-deserved blast at Darling, darling!, who has belatedly been informed by his gap year intern that the Labour policy of slapping a flat levy of thirty grand on non-domiciles for keeping their privileged tax status is in fact a “bloody stupid idea”, as the People’s Republic amongst many, many others could have told him at the time.

The first – and for some time, only – response to Vince’s piece was from the LVT eggs, and was in much the usual vein. It’s like watching someone trying to smell through their ears when LVT eggs get onto tax threads. The mismatch between subject matter and chosen instrument of perception is so total that the discussion is over before it has begun. Essentially, if you believe as passionately as some do that LVT is the only viable liberal tax system and refuse to discuss all lesser proposals on their own terms, what you have is a non-debate. I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand if you are one of the passionate LVT eggs, nursing continual frustration in your hopelessly well-read bosom that the party doesn’t wuv it just as much as you do, I can see how you want to take any opportunity to hammer home your point. You may end up coming on like Cato the Elder on the subject of Carthage* but hey, you’re a political activist, you bought into being boring a loooong time ago - at least an idealist’s issue is kept alive, and the blogs are one of the few places in the party where that is continuously true. Top banana to you.

On the other hand, this is tax policy. Tax policy tends, by its nature, to be highly practical and potent stuff. Elections are won and lost on the fine detail of it in a way that isn’t true for other areas of policy. So when a particular aspect of the government and opposition’s tax policy is so obviously flawed, and ours so obviously superior, don’t the actual circumstances of the case merit a mention? Doesn’t Our Vince merit a(nother) pat on the back for keeping it real? Doesn’t Martin Land on the LDV thread have a point, albeit an unwelcome one, when he says, “If only we could find a way of combining LVT, PR and opposition to Trident into one single policy we could truly bore the electorate to death”?

I’m not convinced that non-domiciles are a particularly good advert for LVT anyway.

“What about non-doms who don’t own property in the UK?” says I, “LVT will only trouble non-doms who have decided to settle and live in the UK to the exclusion of everywhere else. This by definition is likely to be non-doms of modest means. Rich non-doms will simply redistribute their landed assets in the most tax-efficient way. Anecdotally, plenty of internationalist non-dom bankers live in luxury rentals in Kensington and Chelsea and earn vast tax-free salaries in the city.” Yes, I said all that.

“Pah!” says they, “LVT will be passed on to the tenant in the form of higher rents.”

This is true as far as it goes, but it passes over my central point (which wasn’t that well expressed): LVT is based on ownership and stakeholding in the UK. Non-doms occupy a very peculiar position – they come here to make money from employment, not investment. They choose London (generally) as their place of employment for a reason – it is the financial capital of Europe, it is the commercial setting their career cannot thrive without. The UK’s financial industry is a resource used by many wealthy non-doms to make money - a resource that essentially belongs to the host country and its taxpayers. It is impossible, under LVT, to tax wealthy non-doms specifically on the use of that resource. Looked at that way, non-doms are possibly one of the few groups for which it is possible to make an argument for taxing income and not wealth.

After the LVT eggs and I had partied on for a bit, Diversity made a far more effective comment which I shall, if I may (ha, like you have a choice) quote in full:

In practice no tax is perfect; not even green taxes and LVT. Vince Cable’s point is that the Government’s and the Tories proposals for taxing nondoms are downright bad. Seven years and then normal tax is, as always, not perfect. However it is far less damaging than the other parties’ proposals. Once again, Vince is the competent economic manager in the House. 

* Oh, look it up. The world needs more classics nerds.

The answer, from the Grauniad to the Daily Mail, is no. Peter Welch has been nobly reading the Mail so that we don’t have to, and reports on the spat currently taking place between Our Vince and Sir Richard Branson. To have a Liberal Democrat present the case for the opposition here is, as Peter says, something of a coup, but after all if there’s one thing Daily Mail readers hate more than benefit scroungers, it’s fat cats and tax havens.

It’s been clear for some time that what started out as a lone call for nationalisation from Vince Cable has increased steadily in tempo and volume to the point where it’s an acceptable mainstream position (imagine!) What is interesting to me is the range of people now asking the questions about Branson’s personal and corporate probity. The Mail, in common with many other major papers, has been doing some fairly sustained campaigning against the Virgin bid from the beginning, as a search on “Richard Branson” on the site reveals. But it’s the specialists too - Prem Sikka had this piece in CiF back in early December that totally passed me by, and more recently Richard Murphy, the tax research guru I read when I am feeling big and clever, echoes the concerns.

What exactly constitutes tax abuse is a question that exercises some of financial services’ most agile and morally adaptive minds. Eighteen months in that dark industry has left me with a distrust of complaints about “loopholes”, and the supposed moral degeneracy of those “exploiting” them. It is inappropriately emotive language, and I say this as one who regularly rants about people who have wot I reckon to be too much money for social comfort. Either a particular practice or treatment is against the law or it isn’t, and if the latter then we must agree to it, even if we mightn’t like the results (if we really don’t like the results, then the law itself is defective).

Balance is maintained by a communal understanding that there is a point at which avoidance (legal) becomes evasion (illegal), and that it’s in everyone’s interests not to push it by contravening too many of those unwritten tax laws which collectively say, in effect, “It shall be illegal for persons to be greedy bastards and wilfully twist the wording of inoffensive provisions for their own nefarious purposes”.

So when the condemnation of an individual’s tax arrangements are as universal as this, it’s time to be very afraid – because the law which says a tax haven abuser should not be allowed to own a bank is just such a one of those unwritten laws.

Yesterday evening, Millennium Elephant kindly organised* the fourth in a series of Sticky-Buns-and-Awfully-Important-Liberal-Democrats meetings for the bloggers. Answering the questions and eating the doughnuts this time, the unstoppable Dr Vincent Cable.

It has been well rehearsed elsewhere what a thoroughly shiny time of it our Acting Leader is having (so much so that the People’s Republic was moved to express formal congratulations). The mood was naturally upbeat; he is rather enjoying himself. I liked his frankness – if he thought we were talking rubbish, he said so – and the lightly-worn gravity, if such a thing is possible. It struck me that much of his success over the past weeks may be down to this; that once you have a reputation for being thoughtful, steadfast and measuring your words, you can be both as flippant and as blunt as you damn well please and not fall prey to the same accusations of lightweightness that might attend a Cameron, for example.

He ate sticky buns with us for a good forty-five minutes (saving a couple of mad dashes down to the House for divisions) and for once I am going to eschew literary conceit, and go down the boring narrative route of setting out What Happened and When. So feel free to skim-read whole paragraphs that do not interest you without really taking them in, as opposed to normal when YOU MUST READ AND REGISTER EVERY WORD OR RISK THE REPUBLIC’S DISPLEASURE. And we will know, oh yes.

The Joy of Tax

The Quaequam Imperial envoy opened with one of his pet subjects and Vince’s. Given that a cross-party consensus has developed on inheritance tax, shouldn’t we mounting more of a challenge and propose a radical restructure of the tax in line with our essential principle of fairness? Our core liberal beliefs set us against inherited wealth. Why are we colluding in the system by simply raising the threshold? Tax fans will recall that the motion passed at conference was to raise the threshold to £500,000. Aggravated theft fans will recall that this sparked off a bidding war of thresholds in the other two parties in which the Tories carried off the prize (where prize is defined as “double-spread in the Daily Mail”. Which apparently it is.)

Vince’s answer seemed to me to sum up many of the best and worst things about Lib Dem policy-making. He pointed out correctly that the practical upshot, in the current housing market, will be to free a large category of ornery suburban semi-detached family houses from a tax originally meant for “estates” in the old Victorian sense of the word. A moderate threshold raise would have an enormous impact on many perfectly ordinary working (generally southern) urban people who live on earned income rather than asset income, whose most valuable asset by far is their house, and who never dream (if that is the right word) that they might need an accountant until somebody pops their clogs and the IHT assessment falls onto the doormat. Quite true – my parents are a case in point (they do know, of course, but only because of little me).

Moreover, the threshold raise has to be considered alongside the extension of the Potentially Exempt Transfer (IHT-free gifts made in your lifetime) period from seven to 15 years. I thought this a weaker point as people who have a lot of money and a tax accountant generally have no more difficulty in thinking 15 years ahead than they do seven years ahead. Bastards. Although it would lengthen the odds in HMRC’s favour in a rather dark way.

Anyway, Vince’s analysis of who the changed threshold would affect and how is unchallengeable; the threshold has been thoughtfully set to skim clean over the chimney pots of the suburbs but still hit all the more valuable concentrations of assets there and elsewhere; anyone who asks us to prove that our IHT policy does not favour “the rich” will not find us wanting.

But for as long as we hesitate to make that unthinkable assault on inherited wealth, IHT will continue to be one of the few areas of our tax policy from which balls-out liberalism is conspicuously absent. Unfortunately for us, it’s also one of the few areas of tax policy to get widely discussed in the media. It’s just not a good showcase for us. For that reason alone, James’ question requires a broader answer, less nuanced and less grounded in practicalities.

Alas, poor Gordon, I knew him well (actually, not that well) 

Paul Walter asked for Vince’s assessment of Gordon Brown’s “fatal flaw”, as an old friend. Interestingly, Vince knocked this one on the head. Friends is putting it strongly, and he hasn’t used that line himself. He described how they had their first contact in Scotland in the 1970s, when he, a Glasgow councillor, was invited to contribute to the precocious Edinburgh activist Brown’s Red Papers pamphlet. All of which was appealingly and poignantly Our Friends in the Northish and reminded me that there is no substitute for actually listening to politicians tell you unaffectedly how things evolved to be as they are - a lost art.

If Gordon has a single failing that can explain his current misfortunes, it is in Vince’s opinion intellectual and not psychological – he is simply far too enamoured of statism, convinced against mounting evidence of the power of Great Big Government to transform lives. Vince also spoke of the difficulties of taking up the leadership of a government that had already run out much of its credit with the public. I think there is a lot of truth in this – the mood music, however quietly, was against Gordon from the beginning.

That Mr Bean touch

Jonathan Calder asked Vince to analyse his roaring success at PMQs – are we just lucky with the topics that have come up, or does the Acting Leader have a secret? Vince diplomatically acknowledged the part played by both. Yes, Northern Rock fell very obviously within his competence, but his performances are also the result of many years’ practice in asking the telling questions, and the need to ramp up the party profile while the leadership contest has been going on.

The way he spoke so lightly of this need makes it sound easy. Every clear programme for action looks easy once it has been achieved. Deserved panegyrics aside, the substance of what he has done bears repeating; he decided what his role as Acting Leader should be, and then went and bloody well performed it. It was quite obvious that he has relished going on the attack, and it made me think again of Olly Grender’s comment, Perhaps all leaders should be encouraged to think they are temporary…

I’m going to play havoc with time here (you can do that when you have your own Republic) and bring forward Jonny Wright’s question because it is germane to the above. In being the star of PMQs and meriting a mention on all outlets from CBBC Newsround to Popbitch, is Vince not just buying in to the same media circus that did for Ming? Vince drew out a distinction between characterising someone’s behaviour in office in a mocking way, and mocking their actual characteristics. Comparing Gordon Brown to Mr Bean is a different matter from a cartoon Ming on a zimmer frame (why is Mr Bean a much worse insult than Stalin, by the way? Seems to me to be something wrong there). As to the broader charge of playing to the media, Vince emphasised that, contrary to how it might appear, they are not the enemy. Like it or not, there is a symbiotic relationship that is not going to go away.

It takes two

To tweak time back into its rightful order, Alex Wilcock’s question concerned the role of the Deputy Leader. Given its increased prominence over the shenanigans of the last two years, isn’t it time the Deputy Leadership became an elected post? And, as a rider to that, was it time for the role to assume a less nebulous outline and become a more visible presence alongside the leader? And furthermore (gosh, what a big question!) would Vince prefer to keep the Shadow Chancellorship or the Deputy Leadership?

Much of this, and the answer, is grounded in detailed insider knowledge of the party’s workings of which I have no wot, and I will leave analysis to others, but briefly Vince said that there were already a number of these oversight roles in the party, dealing with a broad range of policy issues and making themselves available to media comment – it wasn’t clear that there was a need for another. The main purpose of a Deputy Leader (I said I wouldn’t analyse, but here I rather thought he was stating how things were, rather than envisioning how they could be) is to be an insurance policy in the event of, er, something dreadful happening very much like the dreadful things that have in fact happened.

In any case, our main problem is, ever and always, the media profile of the leader – never mind setting up a more publicly defined number two alongside him to worry about. Vince’s view was that it would be a pedantic move, in a party whose internal processes are already far more democratic than the others, to make the Deputy subject to internal election. The specific quality required for the job is the ability to keep the machine ticking over and deal with PMQs at (probably) a time of internal crisis – not to formulate policy and long-term vision. The MPs contingent is far better placed to make a judgement about specifically this quality.

Fight and flight

I asked about the Heathrow expansion, partly because Vince’s constituency is under the flight path and he has been heavily involved in campaigning against it, but also because how this particular fight pans out will be an indicator of things to come. The three-month consultation has just opened and looks like being a stitch-up; Gordon Brown has left us in no doubt as to what he would like the answer to be. In the tired old deadlock between big business and environmentalism, the current government will always favour big business, and in future we may see the same battles being lost over nuclear power. How can we break that deadlock?

Vince reconfigured my identification of deadlock. In past conflicts, the argument was always between NIMBYism and the ill-defined national interest. His view is that the current face-off, between national interest and a powerful environmental lobby, is a new and potentially more meaningful clash. I’m not altogether in agreement that said powerful environmental lobby is new, and there are already any number of cases in which it hasn’t prevailed. But I do take his point that this has the potential to be a rather bigger issue than this- or-that industrial waste permit or road-widening scheme. It will be a national talking point and the course of events within parliament will reflect that. A well-organised group of MPs or failing that a bodyblow from the Lords could scupper the planning legislation changes required. He is also more optimistic privately than he has been officially that the outcome of the consultation paper may tell against the government.

This overview reminded me of how atypical my views and the views of pretty much everyone I know really are. Just because I have seen every local by-pass scrap for the last decade in terms of a titanic struggle between the environment and the economy, doesn’t mean the vast majority of the population and its newspapers of choice have also arrived at that view. Vince’s view was essentially that the Heathrow expansion could see that leap being made. I do hope so.

Northern Royale

We didn’t have a specific Northern Rock question, but Linda Jack’s question about what the government could be doing better to tackle personal debt reflected on it – are there systemic issues that could be tackled which would have a knock-on effect on easing the country’s personal indebtedness, hem hem? This is another of Vince’s pet issues and he mentioned a couple of reports which I have mentally put into the “More reading required” attic in my head (it’s getting pretty crowded in there; we’ve had to adopt the Dewey decimal system). The government is now starting to perform as regards debt education, albeit nearly a decade too late. I know from my own experience in the Citizens Advice Bureaux that debt charities have had to carry the can during the intervening period; typically rather than deciding to fund these charities properly and broadening the availability of the specialisms they have developed, Labour are now taking it upon themselves to be the saviour of the terminally spendthrift. Imagine my surprise.

Still, it is better than no action at all. But yes, of course there are systemic problems – one systemic problem in fact. 85% of personal debt relates to mortgages, and the problem of how banks treat mortgages is therefore key to solving the personal debt crisis. The purpose of banks is to act as utilities in the same way that water companies are. It should be a basic requirement that they provide a certain level of return to customers just as water companies undertake to provide water if nothing else (a sane level of customer service, for example). Instead they act, in Vince’s view, like casinos, with the results we’ve seen pan out over the last month.

Jungle Vince 

Richard then asked about the aftermath of the leadership election; in the event that Nick Clegg the leader gives the Treasury to Chris Huhne someone else, what job would Vince most like to do and why? Of course, we were not expecting him to set out an impassioned bid for any portfolio; nonetheless the manner in which his answer led on flexibility and versatility seemed very natural. He has a lot of experience in a number of different fields and is quite happy to knuckle down to whatever he’s given. Of course, there is a certain logic in his staying at the Treasury because of the credibility he has built up there, but he would be as happy on many other portfolios, or even in a “jungle role” (I presume this is Westminster-speak for roving brief with attack specialism, rather in the manner of a guerrilla fighter; a splendid image – I did wonder about the khaki face paint stripes at the time, but no-one else mentioned it so I didn’t). Good answer. I bet he’s good to work with.

The elephant in the room

No, not that one. The OTHER and CONSIDERABLY LESS FLUFFY elephant in the room was of course the leadership contest. Linda Jack has already performed a neat twostep on this. But the People’s Republic is willing to speculate wildly on the real answer.

When reflecting on his own role in raising the profile of the party, Vince said of the new leader that it was vital he maintain this public momentum by being “fast out of the traps”, by seizing the initiative,  being seen to do or say something every day. Paul Walter has unsurprisingly picked up that this is basically a description of Chris [ed: or so I thought - please see his comment below]. Does this mean that Vince is backing Chris, or that he is a Clegghead worrying out loud about Nick’s ability to perform in the same way, much as James Graham has been this morning? My money is that his money is on Chris. As for my own money, that is altogether another matter.

That took us once around the room, and as some of you now appear to be in advanced states of putrefaction (which is not a good attribute in a reader, I find) I will leave off here for now, and return to some of the other points we drew out later. You’ve really been ever so brave.

Thanks again to Richard for organising the session. The idea, I think, can only go from strength to strength. It’s a chance for us bloggers to try out the pet theories we evolve in the lonely halls of cyberspace on the Awfully Important People at the heart of it all, and a chance for the Awfully Important People to connect with the grass roots through a friendly audience which has some reach (in fact quite considerable reach on those days when I make any reference to rude and amusing bodily functions).

* In spirit, that is. After the infamous debacle of the non-submission of Millennium’s leadership nomination papers following intractable difficulties with a fluffy foot and a pen, his daddies are organising everything for him.

Just as well no-one called on the People’s Republic of Mortimer to write Vince Cable’s domicile announcement:

George Osborne’s proposal this week is unfortunately far too optimistic in its revenue assumptions and is impractical. A poll tax on non-doms would be prohibitive for the large number of non-domiciles of modest means, but would be a flea bite for the fat cats.*

Is that it, Vincent? What is this, Hug a Cretin Week? In spite of my telepathically communicated instructions he then didn’t go on to say:

Actually, I just have to depart from the usual Lib Dem script of calm and enlightened rationality for a moment, because this really is the most cretinous, poorly thought out, gobby, illogical, unfair, clumsy arse-wipe of a policy I have seen in all my years in politics and I include some of UKIP’s output in that. I mean, for god’s sake, here you have a system of such Byzantine complexity that even most qualified tax advisers have trouble with it and the stupid oily little man wants to slap a flat-rate £25,000 levy on top of it like a bloody parking ticket on a windscreen, and this in return for tacitly promising not to probe too closely into the offshore accounts of multi-millionaires? It’s so laughably simplistic, obscenely unprogressive and legally suspect it beggars belief. As targeted solutions go it’s about as effective as building a bouncy castle extension to Hampton Court Palace. And even if you do - somehow – successfully persuade the Revenue that this madness is worth their hours and shoot out an extra x hundred thousand tax returns at a cost of god knows what to a lot of low-paid people who don’t speak very good English and ensure they tick the correct box so they opt themselves out of this preposturous Johnny Foreigner Levy, what then? Oh, well, they’ve only changed their status in international law, haven’t they! They’ve only thrown into doubt their inheritance posiiton so that there’s a real legal possibility that if they go back to their home country and die in thirty years time the UK could have a claim on their estate. And it’s even questionable whether ticking a box could have the effect of making you UK-domiciled in law to start with! So if you gibbering froth-mouthed lunatics did get the chance, heaven forfend, to go through with this, you would change the meaning of domicile beyond recognition, and you might just as well have binned the whole thing and started again, and pardon me but I thought that was exactly what would be so crippling to the city and presage economic disaster and cause tumbleweeds to roll past Canary Wharf etc etc? And I may have referred to poll tax earlier, but this proposal is - and you can take this as official because I have some excellent trained medievalists on my team – considerably less sophisticated than the poll taxes of 1377 and 1381, and we all know what they led to! Don’t we? Oh, never mind. God, I don’t know why we bother sometimes…

[Mr Cable begins to weep tears of frustration, and has to be led out.]

But soft, I hear you cry out in the awkward silence that follows, what think you of the policy substance of the announcement, Mortimer? Well, s’pretty good. For a start it has the enormous merit of actually following on coherently from the general import of previous party policy, which puts it ahead of the Tories’ desperate 3am crowdpleaser straightaway. It also eschews flashy brinkmanship for practical reality in that it gives people a breathing space to react. The Polish brickie and the Filipino nurse might only have been planning to stay five years in any case and so are unaffected, the Cypriot property developer has time to tie up his affairs, sell the lot and hie him off to a kinder tax climate. Unfortunate for him perhaps, but nobody ever said tax was fair. Sorry, Mr Property Developer. I’m crying on the inside. And above all, it bears the signs of having been formulated by someone who has a nodding acquaintance with how the system works. A lot of the non-doms I used to do tax returns for had lived in the UK for thirty years. They had married UK domiciles, bought a home or three, set up businesses and sent their children to UK universities. But the law and the Revenue still considered them to be domiciled elsewhere, in the main because the Revenue just doesn’t have the resources to drag the MD of every Irish building firm in London through the courts to obtain a ruling of UK domicile. And you don’t have to be more than normally, humanly greedy to shrug your shoulders and use that to your advantage. (For all my latent borderline socialism, I get irritated when people talk about “loopholes” in the law, as if you have to be a cackling purveyor of evil to take advantage of how the law defines you. There is no such thing as a loophole, there is only legal and illegal, and if one thinks the law should be changed to make something illegal then that is altogether a different matter.) But you would have to be more than normally, humanly unreasonable to kick up much of a fuss if you stood to be affected by this proposal, because it’s sheer common sense that if you’ve lived here for ten years… well, then you live here, right?

I have only one caveat, in fact, and that is that what saves the Polish brickie will also save the Italian banker. In both cases, the UK stint is very likely to be of less than ten years’ duration. Fat cats’ careers, especially if they involve the financial services industry, typically have the same sort of time constraints on them as those of athletes. So it’s not in practice going to tap the real high earnings or put more than a notional brake on the tax-free super-rich (albeit that a notional brake is a step in the right direction). I was a wimpy woolly small-L liberal when I started working in tax, and I left a ravening left-winger. I could tell you stories about domicile status that would make you sick to the soul, and I personally think the whole concept should go on the bonfire and I’ll dance on the ashes. But since that would be just as unsophisticated as the Tory proposal and importune quite a lot of Polish brickies to boot, I have concocted a side-order sized cunning plan, a policy-ette, if you will.

One of the most shocking practices I ever saw was the non-dom overpayment claim. (I’m going to get a little bit technical on your ass now, but stay with me because this will keep you high on righteous indignation for the whole afternoon and with no need to spend good money on the Sunday Times.) The non-doms in question were employed by London-based banking houses and had high salaries and posh flats. But they also spent a lot of time out of the country for both work and family reasons, and the upshot was that they were officially “non-resident” and also defined as carrying out most of their duties overseas. And as a result of these two positions, a huge chunk of what had been deducted from their payslips in PAYE over the year got paid back at the end of it. By which I mean - and you might want to make sure there’s some sort of large vessel handy before reading on – people who earned up to £100k received cheques for about £20k from Her Maj’s Revenoo each and every January. Now it’s folly to meddle with residency, because that has as many knock-on effects as fiddling with domicile. But if you were to simply scrap the notion of “overseas duties” and its link to tax liability, solely in the context of non-domiciled employees, you get rid of this problem. Non-doms, however genuinely unaffiliated to the UK they may otherwise be, take jobs with UK firms for a reason, as the Tories are quick to point out. At its most basic, the purpose of tax is to maintain law, order and general good egginess in the society that allows those firms to exist. So whatever else these people squirrel away to the Channel Islands, they’ve made a choice about where they want to work, and should cough up their basic 10-22-40 on earnings and like it. Yes, one more little “except for” rule adds another layer of complexity and that’s not what our tax policy is about, but frankly a silk purse made decently well from a sow’s ear is our lot in life unless and until we have the guts to, er, kill the whole pig, or however you care to construe.

And for future reference, I am available for bah mitzvahs, corporate occasions and sweary rants. Not christenings though, can’t bear them, they’re just weird.

* This quote is true but the others aren’t. In accordance with her invariable practice, the author accepts no responsibility for any jelly that is caused to set in a rude and amusing shape as a result of this blog.

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