Stand a potato in the middle of a patch of gravel. Lie down on your stomach. And stare hard at that potato. Stare really, really hard. Until that potato becomes your world.
Presently, see how magnificent that potato appears. See how it towers majestically above the pebbles and detritus amongst which it is placed. See how boldly admirable it appears, how assertive, how iconic.
Now stand up. Look around you. Gaze up at the sun, the sky ... Buildings, trees, cars. Look back down at your potato.
NOT SO BLOODY IMPRESSIVE NOW ARE YOU, SPUDFACE?
The above was a metaphor. 'No! Not a metaphor!' you may cry. 'That dastardly Intellectual Hooligan! I thought potatoes and gravel were finally getting the blogged attention they so clearly warrant.'
But a metaphor is what it was.
This week we have seen resignations from UK politicians John Hutton, Jacqui Smith and Margaret Beckett. All of whom have bafflingly triangulated themselves into an open septic tank by resigning in support of Gordon Brown (to borrow Simon Hoggart's phrase).
Guys, guys ... You can't actually do that, you realise? It's like professing your deepest respect for your next-door neighbour whilst simultaneously squatting down and turding on his front lawn.
High-minded commentators might call this 'cognitive dissonance'. I call it lawn-turding.
Margaret Beckett, Jacqui Smith, John Hutton: lawn-turders, the lot of them.
I'm not even going to elaborate upon the useless Geoff Hoon, who mercifully slithered away with scarcely a whisper.
Instead, let's turn to Hazel Blears. Who has managed to bolster her expenses-fiddling credentials with generous lashings of spite, arrogance and petty-mindedness. Way to go, Blearsy. You really upped your political stock with that'n. Wearing your stupid 'Rocking the boat' brooch when you went to hand in your resignation.
Did you think that made you look 'fun' and 'quirky'? It didn't. It made you look like an idiot. Clunkingly self-referential adolescent gestures ≠ a massively effective means by which to give yourself the appearance of stature, dignity and statesmanship.
Then there's Caroline Flint.
MP, midwife, wiki, minister for Europe or sexy?
Vote with your Google searches.
Caroline Flint whose top 5 suggested Google searches (based on the searches people most commonly make) are:
- caroline flint mp
- caroline flint midwife
- caroline flint wiki
- caroline flint minister for europe
- caroline flint sexy
So there we are. Epithets to die for, one and all.
Anyway, here's an extract from her resignation letter:
'Several of the women attending Cabinet – myself included – have been treated by you as little more than female window dressing.'
Oops. That was a really stupid thing to write.
And on an important issue that really doesn't need an inept mauling like the one you've just given it.
I'm absolutely not saying the allegation is false. It may well be that Flinty has genuine grounds for grievance – and if she does, this should be rooted out. But – strategically – the way in which she raised the issue was very, very dumb.
There are plenty of dolts who'll characterise women as impulsive and overemotional ... and that resignation letter is grade-A fodder for such people. DO NOT FEED THE DOLTS.
Yes, I can well believe that Brown's cabinet is exclusive – and that, if one is outside the influential clique, it could be pretty frustrating and demoralising. But it's quite a leap to pin one's sense of ostracisation upon one's gender. It implies a chip-on-the-shoulder, an axe to grind. DO NOT FEED THE DOLTS.
And I emphasise again: there may be an anti-female agenda – I certainly wouldn't discount the possibility. But unless you provide evidence or explanation (in which case, this should surely be at the forefront of your resignation letter, not merely tossed in incidentally), you radically undermine your cause, and look paranoid, insecure, hysterical, vindictive. More qualities that don't exactly boost a politician's stock.
Oops. Not such a sharp Flint. You ain't startin' no fires.
So, now the potato. My near surnamesake, James Purnell. Who, implausibly enough, actually looks bold and statuesque – relative to the gravel in which he finds himself.
It's not as if his resignation was particularly classy, particularly whupp-ass. It's just that he – apparently uniquely – managed to do it without either implicit self-contradiction or explicit making-himself-look-stupidness.
So – well done, Jimbo. You are the Intellectual Hooligan's Political Potato of the month.
Enjoy the accolade, won't you?