True to its leaders' New Labour instincts, the Government has used today's parliamentary referendum on lying to the electorate as a means of burying some rather bad news.
The draft Finance Bill for next year includes plans to tax British bankers
at a staggering five hundredths of one per cent, rising to a horrifying seventy-five thousandths of one per cent after the first year.
This constitutes an increase on the original proposals of a wallet-watering one-hundredth of one per cent in the first year, and a bonus-buggering five-thousandths of one per cent in subsequent years.
A spokesbeing for the Treasury said the new levy would ensure that banks "make a fair contribution in respect of the potential risks they pose to the UK financial system and wider economy", just like students, nurses, teachers, the chronically unwell, people in the north and other wastrels.
The "final scheme design", or Act of Parliament as it would have been known in former days, would also "encourage" the banks to give up gambling, the spokesbeing continued.
Although no bankers marched on Parliament or defamed innocent policemen with malicious heart attacks, the British Bankers' Association expressed concern.
"We believe that urgent steps are required to prevent the multiple charging of bank levies on multinational banks," a spokesspiv said. Failure to act swiftly, he said, would do even more damage to Britain's reputation as a global financial centre than the bankers had done on their own.
The Government defended the levy by pointing out that the poorest lenders (those with a balance of £20 billion or less) will be exempt.
Meanwhile, regarding bonuses, the Chancellor sent a message of almost Anglican firmness and resolve via the journalists at a Westminster lunch.
"My message is very simple," the Chancellor said: "reflect upon the economic situation that this country is in; reflect upon the fact that many different parts of our country are having to accept some difficult decisions; look around you and the world you live in before you make your decisions on bonuses."
Britain's chief banking executives are thought to be so concerned about Britain's reputation as a global financial centre that they plan to award themselves an extra £15 million. How far this is the product of sober reflection about difficult choices for lesser mortals has not been reliably gauged.