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Wednesday, July 25, 2012 

Cliché.

The emperor Nero today denied that he had been fiddling while Rome went up in flames, despite official figures showing the fire had spread to 70 new districts in the last few days.

"We all know this city has deep-seated problems, and these disappointing figures confirm that. We have started to deal with the fire at its root source, by making cutbacks in our provision of public services. From now on, those sentenced to death will have to crucify themselves. Many bath houses will have to close, and aqueducts demolished. Progress has though been made, not least by experts at the Bank of the Roman Empire, who have calculated that if we harness the wind power of slaves, they could almost instantly blow the fire out by directing their flatulence in its general direction. Now all we need to do is find the 375 billion needed to achieve such a feat."

Asked whether he would consider a Plan B, namely the use of water to quench the flames, Nero stood firm. "This is not the time to resort to the failed methods of the past. When you're in a fire crisis, you don't solve the problem by stoking the flames." When it was pointed out that this was the opposite of what critics were proposing, Nero simply changed the subject. "This is all irrelevant. You'll forget about the fire now that we're just two days away from the greatest circus games Rome has ever seen. What's more, the influx of people will add to the numbers attempting to staunch the flames, meaning it'll be out by the time you've written this up on papyrus. Oh, and it was a lyre I was playing while I was away strategising, not a fiddle. Get that right or I'll report you to Senator Leveson."

George Osborne is 41 years old.

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