Our prime minister introduced this thrilling concept into PMQs just now, an entirely new sub-genre of the mainstream practice. What an exquisitely-tuned sensibility Eton produces in these matters.
He had been mocking Ed Balls, quoting his plan to be “tough on the deficit and tough on the causes of the deficit.” And as he was one of the main causes of the deficit, this was an example of “maso-sadism.”
Exactly how it differs from sado-masochism remained a tantalising mystery.
Labour erupted into a furious communion with itself and the House. What did he mean? What was this fascinating variation that only the elite have access to?
The Speaker attempted to calm his constituency. “We all know what he meant,” he said in a world-weary way. But it was unlikely he did know. Maso-sadism is strictly a Pop, P2, Order of the Garter sort of secret from which the Speaker will always be excluded (hence his loathing).
Perhaps realising he had given away more than he should, Cameron corrected himself. (That’s level one in M-S.) He laughed it off. He meant ordinary masochism. “I always said he could dish it put but he couldn’t take it. But I think he likes to take it as well.”
Balls was making whip-cracking gestures (obviously got no real idea), and Ed Miliband looked on enviously. “Why can’t I think on my feet like that?” he was asking himself.
His six questions had ended with a rhetorical device. “When he said it, did he mean it?” Halving the deficit. Leaving the NHS alone. Bringing immigration down to the tens of thousands. “He has failed every test he’s set himself!”
Has he? Every test?
Jobs? Economic growth? Inflation? Gay marriage? Keeping a difficult coalition together for five years?
Cameron said: “In a moment,” that is, when the Chancellor gets going with his autumn statement, “he’ll be looking as awkward as he did eating a bacon sandwich.”
The Chancellor had hardly drawn breath before he said the deficit had been halved. He hadn’t even started the smoke machine or angled the mirrors.
Labour benches seemed to take heart from their leader’s performance. But they sit behind him. They can’t see the face.
The secret fear in Labour hearts is that they will narrowly win the election and that the MP found most ridiculous by the nation will be PM. That could lead to a generation in the wilderness for their party.
However, it is just possible, if Doncaster Tories discover a sense of humour and vote tactically, that Ed secures a place in history from which he’d never be dislodged. He might be the first major party leader to lose his seat in a general election.
Ah, the audacity of hope!