It's difficult to imagine holding anything more useless than the hand I hold right now - with the possible exception of a eunuch's tackle.

As if it were not enough to be operating in the wash-up stages of a washed-up government, I'm supposed to be holding El Tel and co to account, keeping a check on prices, while Darling Alistair slaps more duty on the scrumpy.

Well, why not? It's the only grocery category showing any signs of life at the moment, so you might as well suffocate those poor little Blackthorn blighters like everyone else. Maybe that's what Darling meant when he told me that plans for spending cuts were being poured "over ice".

With nothing to do, then, but contemplate my navel, I thought I'd pop over to Bracknell for a lesson in how to look busy from the master himself: Mr Markup da Price.

Of course, he was otherwise engaged (his PA mentioned he needed to Eat something first and it must have been a bloody banquet because it was at least four hours before he sauntered out, looking pleased with himself).

Finally, Markup showed me into a sterile-looking kitchen so squeaky white it resembled a Swiss laboratory. For a minute I wondered if Waitrose had acquired the Hadron Collider, perhaps so that all the food Markup eats would disappear from his girth and into a big black hole.

Then I spotted a speccy bloke in a white coat (I think he said his name was Moto or South Mimms or something) poring over a bowl of custard with a little old lady bearing an uncanny resemblance to George Osborne, and lovingly referred to by Markup as 'Treasure'.

"It's our Essential crème brûlée," Treasure explained. "With a dash of dry ice and a bucketload of marketing moolah," added Moto, "we have worked alchemy: selling the same crap as everyone else but for double the price."

And with that the three let out a maniacal laugh. "Ahahahaha."

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