Many laws of the natural world are inviolate. Others, such as Moore’s law of chip processing power, prove their validity each year (for the moment). So how about a law about budget speeches, or a budget speech marathon. In particular, it’s those budget speeches in Parliaments, Congresses and Assemblies the world over that set out government spending for the next 12 months.
What should the law say? Should it be something to do with the speech’s brevity and its intrinsic value? Or should it be something about the speech’s absurd length and the tedium it induces?
Much will depend on your politics. Which is why the iron law of budget speeches probably won’t get off the ground. For everyone who jeers a speech’s length there’s someone who cheers the speech’s breadth.
But if you thought your typical budget speech was a pain in the back (or something far worse), then spare a thought for India’s new Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. He had the job of unveiling the Government’s tax and spend plans in Parliament this week. And what a marathon job he made of it.
His budget speech marathon took for ever. After 45 minutes he sought permission from the Speaker of the House to sit down after back spasms proved discomforting. So, after a five minute break the Minister continued with his budget speech marathon…speaking for a further 85 minutes.
For this second section of his budget speech, the Speaker allowed him to remain seated and deliver his speech from that position. Sedentary perfection.
Most of the House sat back and seemed to be listening. Others, a small minority, tried to butt in and pose questions to no avail. At least that was participation! But Mr Jaitley’s party has a huge majority in the new Parliament, so it was really no surprise that he could get away with such a budget speech marathon.
In a historical context though, his budget speech was a mere introduction compared to the budget marathon speech of four hours 45 minutes by William Gladstone in the British Parliament. Way to go.
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