Is Nick Clegg the verruca of British politics? I only ask – in fact, it’s something I asked Sadie, a nice woman who held my gnarled and calloused foot between her parted thighs for half an hour in a south London consulting room early this week, then charged me £28 for the privilege. I hasten to add that Sadie’s thighs were sheathed in denim and far from being a fetishists’ assistant, she was a chiropodist.
I’d spoken to one of her colleagues on the phone and asked if they – the chiropodists – would be able to remove this growth from beneath the little toe on my left foot: “I’ve tried the proprietary stuff from the chemist’s,” I explained, “but the thing is difficult to reach, and no matter how much I coat it, pick it and then rub it with an emery board, it just goes on getting bigger. And besides, I think I can hear it at night, speaking from the bottom of the bed, mouthing platitudes about the national debt and the lack of any alternatives and core Liberal beliefs. Moreover, I’m worried about infecting my kids.”
Sadie’s colleague assured me that Sadie would do the business and booked me an appointment – but when it came to the crunchy dermis, it turned out that she was far from willing to make the cut. “There’s no point,” she averred. “There’s about a 50% chance of success, and as 50% of them fall off within a year of their own accord, it hardly seems worthwhile.”
“But what about contagion?” I asked.
“They aren’t actually contagious,” she said, “that’s a bit of myth. The virus is like the herpes one that causes cold sores – it’s everywhere all the time, it’s just a matter of it finding a chink in your immune system. Verrucas thrive between upper and lower layers of the skin where the body’s immune system can’t detect them, so the thing to do is actually to irritate the skin beneath the verruca so that it mobilises antibodies to repel the foreign body.”
“Hm,” I hm-ed, “so the verruca virus is like Liberalism, it’s everywhere all the time but you can’t see it and it has no real impact on Government policy until it manages to get in between the layers of popular and parliamentary sovereignty, whereupon it will grow into an opportunistic Cleggy-shaped thing?”
“That’s about the size of it,” Sadie concurred.
“The size of it is fucking huge!” I screeched, “and it looks like an overgrown public schoolboy!”
“Well, as I say, you’ve a 50% probability of its coalition falling apart within the year – and even if I did remove it surgically there’s a chance you could develop something worse.”
“Do you mean – ?”
“Yes, Simon Hughes. Now, that’ll be £28 please – we accept credit or debit cards, and, of course, cash.”