Harry: Nice to see you again, Dave. Have a seat and tell me what’s on your mind.
David: Well, Harry, I’d like to talk with you in your capacity of chairman of the party’s local constituency. I’ve decided to explore the possibility of going into politics.
Harry: My dear fellow, I’m sure your motives are noble, but if you don’t mind my being frank, you’ve never struck me as the type. Are you sure about this?
David: Yes. It’s occurred to me that there aren’t enough of the right people in the House of Commons. I suspect the reason is that there is simply a shortage of applicants for the openings that arise.
Harry: You’re way off the mark there. Countrywide, we have umpteen of them for every seat that becomes available. You’ve no idea how many people want to get their noses into the trough.
David: Trough? I don’t understand. My idea is to do something to improve the state of this country. I’d like to make a difference.
Harry: We all would, old boy, but most of us don’t manage it, and if you’re hoping to do it in the Westminster madhouse, I think you’ll be disappointed. If you were to get in, you’d have hardly any influence unless you were to climb a fair way up the greasy pole, and even then you’d never be able to do anything of which the civil service Mandarins didn’t approve – and they’re rarely enthusiastic about endorsing whatever the politicians wish to do.
David: Well, that’s a pity. I had visions of myself getting to the front bench and glaring across at the enemy.
Harry: Such innocence, Dave. Let me acquaint you with the famous conversation that took place some time ago between a new arrival in the bear pit and a senior backbencher. The newcomer used the very words you just did and the experienced chap said: “Wrong, my friend. The people facing you form the opposition. The enemy is behind you.”
Harry: Of course. That’s the only location from which they can stab you in the back.
David: You’re beginning to depress me, Harry. I had thought that with my background as an economist –
Harry: Stop! I don’t want to stick the knife in, but we already have six economics experts in the list of applicants for our upcoming vacancy, and you know what they say about such people.
David: No, I don’t. Would you like to tell me?
Harry: Well, you asked for this. The word is that if all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they wouldn’t reach a conclusion. I mean, you have to admit that people in your line have a tendency to predict every possible future scenario, then when one of those forecasts comes true they say: “There, I told you so.” Of course they draw a veil over all the wrong outcomes they foretold.
Davis: I’m so glad you said you didn’t want to stick the knife in. I shudder to think of what you’d say if you did.
Harry: I’m sorry, Dave, but you have to face it. In public esteem, economists rank at about the same level as estate agents.
David: That’s a low one, Harry. Anyway, economics is not the only arrow in my quiver. I’ve written quite a few articles for various national newspapers.
Harry: Even worse, Dave. Journalists are rated lower than the two lots I just mentioned. I think you should consider not considering what you are considering.
David: That’s quite a bit of consideration, Harry. Frankness seems to be your middle name.
Harry: I’m only telling you these things for your own good.
David: Well, I’m not discouraged. I believe I could be useful in bringing the left and right sides of our party towards the centre.
Harry: If you were to try that, you’d acquire the most damning description in your colleagues’ vocabulary.
David: What’s that?
Harry: They’d classify you as extreme middle. That’s a good way to make yourself unpopular. The factions love their infighting. It keeps them going. Anyway, I have another appointment shortly, so you’ll have to excuse me. However, if you don’t mind my being blunt –
David: I don’t see how you could be more so than you have been.
Harry: Look, Dave, I have to be brutally honest here. You’re simply not wily enough for what you have in mind. The biggest problem you’d have would be your credulousness. In fact, you’re just about the most gullible fellow I know.
David: I don’t understand you. Give me an example of what you’re saying.
Harry: All right, but remember you’ve brought this upon yourself. I’m thinking of the incident last year when I told you I’d been digging the garden over and had found a Roman coin, clearly stamped 49 B.C. and that I’d sent if off to get an assessment. You offered me a hundred pounds for the thing, without seeing it.
David: Yes, and even if you were given a lower valuation, my offer stands.
Harry: And you still don’t see what I mean?
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