It’s Budget day in the UK. Gordon Brown has produced a boring budget with one absolutely brilliant strategic move: he promised to reduce the number of civil servants by 40 000 and move 20 000 of the remainder out of London to the provinces.

As an employee of the Medical Research Council there’s every chance I might be one of those 40 000, but that doesn’t stop me recognizing it as an inspired plan. The Tories simply can’t find a way around it. “Cutting government waste” is their (indeed, every party’s) favourite scheme for paying for tax cuts and increased spending on health and education. They’re going to have to find a different approach if they want to differentiate themselves from Labour at the election next year.

Today is also an appropriate day to share two British statistics with you:

  • Britain is now the only country in Europe with more credit cards than people.

  • We account for 75 percent of all credit card spending in Europe.

Scary aren’t they?