Verbal ping-pong

I’m told that, in some of the seedier parts of places like Bangkok, one of the louche entertainments involves watching ladies launch ping-pong balls across the room from surprisingly inappropriate parts of their anatomy. Not having been there, I wouldn’t know – but although I’ve never experienced this dubious diversion I think I have some inkling of what it must be like.

I’ve just been listening to Martha Kearney interviewing former Home Secretaries Michael Howard and Charles Clarke, and asking them if they feel any sympathy for the topical travails of the current post-holder, Jacqui Smith. Charles Clarke said yes, he did; Michael Howard said no, not so much. So far, so straightforward. Bodily orifices and language all being used as normal.

However, Mr Clarke then went on to say that he felt the job of Home Secretary was a difficult one to do if one lacked previous political experience in a high level cabinet post, and “intellectual self-confidence”. It was at that point that I heard the sound of a ping-pong ball hitting the floor some distance across the room.

Those ill-disposed towards Mr Clarke will probably reflect that his own “intellectual self-confidence” is seldom lacking and often comes across as plain arrogance. Those ill-disposed towards Ms Smith might wonder if he’s accusing her of being thick. With expressions of sympathy like that, who needs critics?

Politicians don’t always use their mouths and words the same way as the rest of us. It many not be an attractive sight, but it’s an amusing enough diversion if you like these kinds of low entertainment…