I’m rather fond of the adage ‘Hoist by their own petard’, which, roughly translated means trapped by their own, overblown sense of piety and pomposity.
The phrase has a whimsically medieval ring to it – almost Shakespearean, don’t you think? – though I had to consult the dictionary on what exactly is a ‘petard’ (for the record it is related to the old French term to ‘break wind’, which is ironic given the circumstances).
This week we’ve been privileged to witness three perfect instances of it, provided by gobby Cherie Blair, crestfallen comic Jimmy Carr and Wikileaks’ uber-moraliser, Julian Assange.
Mrs. Blair had the brass neck to lambast ‘stay-at-home yummy mummies’ as if they were some abhorrent sub-species and the epitome of self-indulgence. With their 4×4 Chelsea tractors, designer wardrobes and kids at expensive preps, they represent an infinitesimally microscopic percentage of womanhood and are the softest target this side of Harrods’ Food Hall.
As a generalisation, it says zilch for housewives, who do a hard day’s labour looking after their families and receive few thanks for their sacrifice.
Criticising women who ‘put all their effort into their children’ instead of working nobly was a typical Lefty, I’m-always-rightie knee-jerk from the QC, mother of four and wife of one of the world’s consummate snake-oil salesmen.
Pity Cherie didn’t offer some explanation into her own ‘efforts for her children’, such as why she is under investigation for breaching planning rules on the £1.3 Westminster house she helped her son, Euan, buy and convert the basement into an extra flat to boost his income.
This isn’t the first time the roof’s threatened to cascade on the Blairs’ property wheelings and dealings, even though their bricks-and-mortar portfolio is now estimated to be worth £15M.
In 2002, when Euan was at Bristol University, it emerged Cherie had bought two flats there at a discount with the help of the convicted fraudster Peter Foster. And in 2009 she was probed by planning officers after complaints she ran an office from the family’s £3.65 mansion in Connaught Square.
Funnyman Carr’s boob was to pillory Barclays Bank at one of his gigs for using legal though iffy tax avoidance schemes, only for it to emerge he was involved in a little fiscal legerdemain himself – namely exporting his £3.3M earning offshore to Jersey and ‘borrowing’ it back from a fund called K2, thus mitigating his tax liabilities to a little over zero.
No wonder Jimmy’s face is now as red as his jokes are blue.
Finally, to Assange, currently enjoying the b&b hospitality of Ecuador’s London embassy, while seeking asylum – and escape from an extradition warrant from Sweden, where he faces rape charges – in one of South America’s many tainted domains.
Political agitator, defender of free speech or maverick self-propagandist and illegal ouster of secrets, the smirky Australian’s revelations certainly caused a rumpus in 2010, though of the 251,000 diplomatic cables Wikileaks published, 53 percent were listed as ‘unclassified’, 40 percent ‘confidential’ and only about six percent ‘secret’.
Quirkily, they didn’t quite have the intended anti-US impact Assange wished, as much of the chit-chat was diplomatic drivel and the countries at the butt-end of the comments were mainly beyond the pale of international decency.
Meanwhile, by his latest actions, Assange has dropped a fair few of his backers – i.e. the usual, hand-wringing suspects, like Jemima Khan, journalist John Pilger and film-maker Ken Loach – right in the excrement, since they acted as sureties for his £240,000 bail and are now likely to be a smidgeon less well-heeled.
But, maybe according to the gospel of Saint Julian, that’s what friends are for.