Liberal Democrat leader Nick ‘Calamity’ Clegg has stunned his annual party conference with his radical new proposals for a so-called ‘nose tax’. “With fresh air becoming an increasingly scarce commodity, we need to make people responsible for their own consumption of this vital resource,” he told gathered delegates. “It’s clear to me that the only fair way to do this is to tax people for air consumption, on the basis of nose size.” Dismissed by his critics as ill-informed lunacy, Clegg’s supporters have hailed the new tax proposals as a brilliant new environmental initiative. “If this doesn’t focus the population’s minds on the issue of air pollution, then nothing will,” says top Liberal activist John Wickless. “It’s a double whammy – on the one hand it will force people to curb their consumption of air, on the other the taxes it raises can be used to finance further cuts in carbon emissions thereby reducing the amount of pollution going into the air we breath.” Responding to allegations from political opponents that his proposal would, indeed, simply constitute a tax on breathing, Clegg has emphasised that it is aimed purely at excessive users of air, rather than regular breathers. “Clearly, it would be grossly unfair to expect ordinary people to pay for an involuntary, life-dependent, activity,” he told the press. “The average person will only be charged a modest flat-rate for their regular daily quota of air consumption. It’s those with air-guzzling abnormally large noses that we’ll be targeting. Obviously, we’re not saying that people can’t have ostentatious, larger than average noses – that’s their personal choice. All we’re saying is that if they want them, then it is only fair that they should pay for the additional air, above and beyond the their normal allocated quota, they inhale.” Clegg’s ‘nose tax’ has received scientific backing from top nasal expert Professor Hans Septum. “As long ago as 1964 it was established beyond any doubt – by scientific experiment -that air consumption is directly related to nose size. Three proboscis monkeys were sealed into an airtight box with three normal nosed monkeys – within half an hour the normal monkeys were dead, deprived of air by the abnormally large noses of their proboscis cousins, who lasted a further ten minutes before all the air expired, ” explains the sixty-eight year old Bracknell University lecturer, who believes that all breathing should be metered. “These excessive users have a simple choice: either have cosmetic surgery to reduce their nose size; or reduce their consumption by not engaging in any activities which will result in heavy breathing, such as sex, exercise or heart attacks. If they refuse to take either of these simple steps, then they must be prepared to pay the price!”

The whole debate over the ‘nose tax’ has taken a sinister turn, with claims that it is already encouraging a backlash against those with larger noses. Within hours of Clegg announcing his new proposals, Surrey Police were warning men with larger than average noses to be on their guard and, where possible, avoid the streets altogether after dark, following a vicious and apparently unprovoked ‘Nose Rage’ attack on a 44 year old Guildford man. Frank Gudgeon, a local carpet fitter, was struck down from behind by an unseen assailant shortly after he left the Old Holborn Arms public house in the town centre that night. His attacker was apparently enraged at the abnormally large size of Mr Gudgeon’s nose. “He kept shouting ‘You think you are so clever, don’t you, you big-nosed bastard, eh? Think you are so much better than the rest of us with your king size conk, eh? I bet your wife hires you out as an anteater!’, as he repeatedly kicked me,” recalls Gudgeon. “He seemed to be deliberately targeting my nose. I know its big – even as a kid I was teased by the other children. They used to call me ‘trunky’ and ‘King Conk’ – but there is really no need for this sort of thing. What have I ever done to him? The bloke must be a nutter!” The attack has left the local community shocked and the police baffled. “Clearly this man feels very threatened by large noses – perhaps his is abnormally small, or he had a nose job that went horribly wrong – in any event, he is highly dangerous and should not be approached,” a Surrey police spokesperson told the press. Whilst the police haven’t directly linked the attack on Gudgeon with Clegg’s conference address, some political pundits have been less reticent. “This ludicrous policy is simply a licence for bigots to discriminate against people because of a genetic quirk over which they have no control,” declares Jim Horn, political editor of the Sunday Bystander. “When people with big noses aren’t being beaten up or having bricks thrown through their windows, they’ll be refused entry to lifts or other confined spaces o the spurious grounds that they’ll suck all the air out!” However, others have been quick to point out that ‘Nose Rage’ attacks pre-date Clegg’s announcement. Indeed, according to the Metropolitan police, a retired Army Sergeant was severely bludgeoned and his nose broken in a similar incident in April. In this instance the assailant reportedly shouted “Who do you think you are, Cyrano de-frigging-Bergerac?” and taunted his victim by saying “I bet you have heavy lorries driving in and out of your nostrils all day as they mistake ’em for the Blackwall Tunnel!” and “I hear the makers of Concorde are going to sue you for breach of copyright!”

Police cannot say if the incidents are linked, whether the same attacker was involved in both, or whether they are merely the first incidences in a major outbreak of ‘Nose Rage’ – something experts have been warning of for several years now. “I doubt very much if the Lib Dems’ ‘nose tax’ has anything to do with it. Rather, it is itself another symptom of the increasing aversion to big noses we’ve been seeing,” says top daytime TV psychologist Dr Martin O’ Nads. “As Britain’s streets become more crowded, it is inevitable that there will be a backlash against air-guzzling large noses that take up more than twice as much valuable road space as normal ones.” Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats’ ‘nose tax’ has been condemned by political opponents. Whilst Conservative leader David Cameron broadly agrees that action needs to be taken on the issue of air consumption, he has made clear that a ‘nose tax’ is most certainly not what he would do if in power. Although unwilling to commit his party to any firm policy on the subject, Cameron has alluded to the concept of ‘air pricing’, with consumers being charged more for fresh air in cities and industrialised areas, where it is at a premium, compared to rural areas, where it is relatively abundant. The Labour party has been dismissive of any proposals to ration air , whether on the basis of nose size or location. “Such policies miss the fundamental point, what we need is a complete redistribution of breathing resources,” says backbench Labour firebrand Bob Nostril. “Air is a natural resource which should be allocated solely on the basis of need, not purely arbitrarily, as it would be under Clegg’s crackpot scheme.” Clegg remains unrepentant over his policy proposal. “What does it matter that it is completely irrational?” he asks. “I mean, we’re never actually going to be in power to implement it, are we? But it’s distinctive and sets us apart from the other two parties. Not only that, but the controversy keeps me in the papers, and surely that’s what matters in politics, isn’t it?”