When Adrian Beecroft denounced Vince Cable as a "socialist" yesterday, the reaction – for many – may have been: "Is he? Oh. Good."
Beecroft, the venture capitalist and government adviser, meant it as an insult – but for the Sage of Twickenham, it was probably one of the more helpful insults he's sucked up since May 2010.
By using the "S" word as a pejorative, Beecroft has aligned himself with those on the American right who've been using "socialist" as a verbal stick with which to beat non-socialists, e.g. Barack Obama, since the prehistory of Obama's healthcare reforms.
A favourite recent wielding of the stick marked "boo, socialists" was made by a writer for Investor's Business Daily who tried to link Obama's 2012 campaign branding – "Forward" – with Russian socialist groups who also use "Forward" as a slogan. Hmm. There's also an Italian socialist newspaper called Forward (Avanti!), which would surely be proof of a global socialist conspiracy were it not for the fact that its most famous ex-editor was Benito Mussolini.
The eurozone crisis has helped to make self-described socialists the new cool kids in EU politics. They include François Hollande and Belgium's coalition leader, the openly gay, dicky-bow-wearing socialist Elio Di Rupo, who once described himself as an "atheist, rationalist and freemason". I bet he had you at "dicky bow".
Even British Labour leaders (!) are getting in on the act, with Ed Miliband declaring in 2010: "Yeah, I am a socialist... and I'm not embarrassed about it."
Next thing you know, we'll be creating a free public-healthcare system. What? Oh.