How to shoot yourself in the credibilities

Jeremy Bullmore

WARNING: If controversial recommendations are to be taken seriously, they need to come from a credible source.

I think it was Gore Vidal but it may not have been. And I certainly can't remember when it was.

But some years ago, an authoritative American was talking on the radio about the relative efficiency of American and British intelligence services. He was either impressively well-informed or suspiciously over-confident: it was hard to tell which.

Until, that is, he referred with great familiarity to MI5. But he didn't say MI5. He said M Fifteen. And in that immediate instant, both his case and his authority were blown for good. Shot, destroyed, obliterated: justly or unjustly, never to be recovered.

M Fifteen? That's it! Game over!

I don't know what such self-propelled wrecking-balls are called. They're a lot more lethal than putting your foot in it or putting your foot in your mouth or shooting yourself in the foot. You don't just look foolish: you forfeit any further right to attention or respect. Perhaps it should be called shooting yourself in the credibilities.