"AN ANNUAL APPEAL to the unwise by the unscrupulous which annually succeeds." Yes, folks, it’s the Party Political Conference season. In my youth I used to follow these events avidly - now, like the vast majority of the British public, I can’t even be bothered with the 30-second sound bites you get on the news. I wonder if, one day, I will turn on the TV and hear a party leader say something like following.

"MY FELLOW DELEGATES, I think it’s time to be honest. Although I have some vague idea that I would like to do things for the good of the country, I’ve been at this lark for such a long time that I can’t even remember what’s it like to be an average member of the public. I’ve lost touch with real people - I get my understanding of what matters to the electorate from my focus groups and political advisors.

"ONCE I KNOW ABOUT the problem I set about minimising it. I don’t do this by devising effective policies and then ensuring they are implemented - that’s hard work and takes too long. So I solve these problems by employing spin-doctors. Together we announce initiatives, promise extra funding and, hey presto, problem dealt with! And just to make sure everything looks tickety-boo we then find ways to fudge the statistics to prove our success.

"OF COURSE, you know that most of the time I never really tell you what I think. If I did that I’d probably upset people - and hey, I might lose the support of a voter or two. Let me give you an example. I believe it’s much easier dealing with a small group of people rather than a large one. Take those bloody petrol retailers for instance. We’ve done a pretty good job of getting their numbers down over the past 20 years but there are still too many of them. And boy do they whinge.

"YOU KNOW THAT we’ve had a problem with crime, so over the past 12 months we’ve come up with masterstrokes to cut the figures and free up the courts and the prisons. Don’t count people driving off without paying as a crime and don’t bother treating shoplifters as criminals. Just give them a ticket as if they had parked too long at a meter. What do I get? Uproar from these ruddy retailers. What a cheek. Don’t they realise that if they didn’t let people serve themselves and if they didn’t have attractive displays of goods they wouldn’t suffer any losses. It’s no different from the girl who wears a very short mini-skirt. Now if we only had to deal with four or five hypermarkets and a couple of oil companies we wouldn’t have all this fuss. We’d invite them round for a chat and tell them to accept the losses and stop wasting police time. We’d drop them a wink about helping them out in some other way and they would go away happy.

"STILL, THOSE LITTLE RETAILERS shouldn’t be a problem for too much longer. Come October we’ve the increase in the minimum wage and then we’ll hit them with the extra eight days statutory holiday pay. And remember how we buggered up the pension job by altering the tax regime. Well because our well-heeled friends were all squawking we’re going to impose a 3.75% pension levy on employers. So I reckon I’ve just increased those little oiks’ wage bill by nearly 7.5% - that should get rid of another couple of thousand of them. Especially with those huge energy bills really starting to bite. Thinking about it, I might just tinker with composition of the fuel they sell - that should whack up their dip losses. I know its only 0.3% but you know what they say - every little helps!! I’m really warming to this now so let’s add a bit to the cost of waste disposal, chuck in Stage II Vapour recovery for those who are getting above themselves and, oh yes, while I’m talking about cutting red tape let’s give them some new fire regulations to worry about."

WILL MY FICTIONAL politician succeed in his objective? Unless you start figuring out where your extra profit is going to come from to cover these extra costs, I’m afraid he will.