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Watching the circus that is the Tory leadership race, I couldn’t help thinking how amusing competitive men can be, especially when things descend into a basic dick-waving contest.

Even more so when one of the participants, in his eagerness to be top dog, oversteps a line. In Gove’s case, a line or more of charlie.

A number of instances came to mind. For one, in David Lodge’s book, Changing Places, an American college lecturer gets drawn into a game of ‘Humiliation’ (I have sat at the very Lausanne lakeside eatery where that game was first played, talking to one of the original participants). The object of this game for university English lecturers, is for each to name a classic work that they haven’t actually read. They then get a point for each player who has read it. In the book English self-deprecation (and tenured posts) come up against American competitiveness (and lesser job security). Doing badly in the game, the US player admits to never having read Hamlet, winning the game — but losing his job.

So when it came to gaining street cred and honesty brownie points by building on Bill Clinton’s classic, ‘but I didn’t inhale’, one hopeful after another confessed to (but regretted of course) some earlier indiscretion, until Mikey Gove had to up the ante with coke-fuelled parties. Oops. Sadly this ended the game before the bidding went up to heroin or crack.

The best example has to be that which won a Darwin Award in 1996 (given annually for people who die due to spectacular stupidity before they can pass their dumbass genes on to another generation). As the awards website puts it:

Polish farmer Krystof Azninski staked a strong claim to being Europe’s most macho man by cutting off his own head in 1995. Azninski, 30, had been drinking with friends when it was suggested they strip naked and play some “men’s games”. Initially they hit each other over the head with frozen turnips, but then one man upped the ante by seizing a chainsaw and cutting off the end of his foot. Not to be outdone, Azninski grabbed the saw and, shouting “Watch this then,” he swung at his own head and chopped it off.

Go on Tory candidates; you know you want to. We want you to, anyway.

 

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