Those of you who live in the UK will know the radio program "Any Questions" in which a panel of public figures, mostly politicians, answer questions put to them by members of the audience. The debate is usually chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby who calls for the questions and calls upon each member of the panel to answer in turn.
"And so we to our final question this evening...."
"John Welter, Mayor of this town. If the panel could become King or Queen of the World for just 24 hours, what would their very first act be?"
"Philip Scott, would you like to kick this one off."
"Well, let me first say that for me it would suffice to become King of Scotland. Indeed, that's my one ambition, so if I were to become King of the World my one and only act would be to grant seccession rights for Scotland before the English try to get their hands on our riches once again."
"John Greene. You're not know for your nationalist sympathies, so what would you choose as your first act."
"I think it's obvious that the biggest challenge facing any world government is the environment. If we don't act decisively and do so very soon, there soon will no longer be a world to govern. So my first act would be but I assure you it would be followed up by a number of similar acts with the aim of making our world a cleaner and more sustainable place to live."
"Martha Spend, do you think the environment is the most important cause to take up?"
"Well, I can understand John's concern about the environment and I agree it's something we would have to tackle without too much delay. But surely the greatest priority has to be redressing the social differences which exist between the haves and the have nots. That's why my very first measure would be to raise my government's income by introducing a new tax on Western countries based on their GNP and the profits of which would go to encouraging small family businesses in the Third World so as to reduce the misery and poverty in which a vast number of people live today."
"Selena Prudent, you're shaking your head vigourously. What would you place as your number one priority?"
"Yes, Martha's solution doesn't surprise me in the least. It's the sort of left-wing dream that she would espouse. However, we're not living in a dream world of philanthropic wildcards but in the real world. And in the real world the only way to get is through hard work and the opportunity to spend whatever you earn without some great big bureaucrats from wherever they are from coming along and pinching it from you. So my first act would be to reduce income tax by a thrid and to cut down government spending to an absolute minimum in order to increase individual initiative throughout the planet."
"Thank you panel for your very direct answers. As I'm sure, you all agree, over the 20 or so years I've been running this program I have tried to remain painfully neutral and never to join in any debate which we have had here. Well, as tonight is the very last time I shall be sitting in this particular chair, I'm going to allow myself the luxury of an answer to this question. As King of the World my first act would be to force all politicians to answer truthfully to whatever question I asked them. So, Selena Prudent, my first question is for you. How much do you stand to gain from your own tax-cutting measure?"
"Well, actually very little. Fortunately, I have found an extremely useful loophole which reduces my income to well below the single person's threshold. And as you know, I've never married. True, my partner and I share all of our income together, but by keeping my income separate on paper, I get to keep all I earn. And that's why I want to go cutting taxes, because as I rise in the party hierarchy, I shall be earning more and more, and must do all I can to avoid giving any of it away."
"Philip, why is it that you own three English country houses, and haven't visited Scotland since your speech at the party's national conference in 2005?"
"Well, the simple and I add the truthful answer to this, is that I don't give a damn about Scotland. I wanted to get into parliament, and the two larger parties wouldn't have me. So I found a cause to champion, and here I am."
"Selena, last week you refused a request made by the chairperson of the Fair Trade For All pressure group to address a speech at the launching their new campaign aiming to spread awareness of Fair Trade throughout the country. Why?"
"Quite simply, Jonathan, because fair trade only serves to make prices here in the UK rise even higher. This is bad for our party because if it continues, it will probably have us voted out of government next year, but secondly because it means I have less money to spend on myself. I agree that we urgently need to address the problem of Third World poverty, but I have absolutely no intention of becoming the sucker who does that all alone. That's why we need a tax solution, because I'm going to get Selena to reveal to me her loophole so I too no longer have to pay taxes."
"And finally, John, may I congratulate you on leaving your chauffeur-driven car behind this evening. What made you feel that it was necessary?"
"Well, Jonathan, as you know I'm a very busy man and after this evening's program I have to get straight back to London for a champagne reception to launch my campaign to become our new party leader. Since driving down the M1 would take at least 30 minutes to reach the outskirts of London, I considered it far more reliable to hire my own private helicopter. You can here the engine starting up right now, and as soon as we're off air, I shall be whisked away in a jiffy. You see, concern for the environment is all very well, but the burden needs to be shared by us all, and not just by one or two politicians."
"Well, panel thank you for your unusually honest and frank answers this evening. I leave this program safe in the knowledge that it will never happen again."
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