There was a good turn out in the Kingdom of Heaven, as they waited for the Pre Budget Report. The Archangels’ bench was packed – they had put in prayer cards to reserve their seats – and many of the cherubs were sitting in the aisles. Some of them were twittering, hoping they wouldn’t be noticed by the Speaker. The Gallery was packed with scribes who had to file their epistles before evensong. (They had learned not to believe everything they had been told by the prophets that morning. The Book of Numbers, chiselled in its distinctive pink stone, had been particularly gloomy.)
Then the Keeper of the Holy Purse rose to make his statement, putting his papyrus on a pile of bibles so he could read without using his glasses. “I want to begin by telling you” he said “that we have been living beyond our means. You may all think that we can live up here on the never-never, but I have to tell you in all honesty that that is not the case. All the milk and honey has to be paid for with hard-earned foreign currency. The celestial crown has been losing its value against the pluto, and with the spread of atheism in our dominions, there has been less investment in our stock of undated Peace Loan. I am going to have to announce some tough policies to balance the tablets. We can no longer live on a wing and a prayer.”
There was some muttering from the backbenches at this point. They were familiar with the economic cycle whereby seven fat years are followed by seven lean ones but, frankly, they thought they had put that and all the locusts behind them when they reached the Kingdom of Heaven. An end to boom and bust. What had been the point of following Moses and his ten commandments if heaven was going to be just like earth? Leviticus was overheard saying to Ezekiel that they might as well have coveted their neighbour’s ox - not to mention his maidservant - after all.
The Keeper of the Holy Purse outlined the options he had explored. Abolition of the Death Grant would save no money as there had been no claims. Investment in the arts – particularly music and choirs - was a manifesto commitment and therefore sacred. “I have, however, been looking at the size of some of our angels and I believe there is scope for some economy in the budget for entertainment and hospitality. A little girdle tightening would not come amiss.”
He could not rule out an increase in taxes “I am afraid there may have to be a lot more rendering next year. The current rate of 200 shekels in the talent may have to be reviewed. Our policy is of course to tax things that are bad and this brings me to climate change. Up here above the clouds, we are of course concerned about CO2 emissions. Our rivals in the afterlife business - and we operate in a competitive global market - have paid the penalty of ignoring scientific advice, and I understand the temperature down there is very uncomfortable. I am minded to convene a summit of all interested parties – though I know what the good book says about supping with the….”
At that point in his address, there was a thunderbolt and darkness fell. The Speaker could be heard talking about a higher authority and announced the suspension of proceedings.