Some amazing items have been auctioned on eBay. Who can forget the astonishing "Virgin Mary On A Toasted Cheese"?
But apparently there ARE limits. And that limit has been reached.
eBay has just pulled down an auction of a British politician on the grounds that: "Humans may NOT be listed on eBay". But not before bidding had reached one million pounds sterling -- equivalent to nearly US $1.5M -- after 46 bids and with 5 days still left to go!
Here's how it went down.
The current deadlock in resolving last week's UK elections inspired a British prankster. Amused by the bizarre sight of a 43-year-old neophyte politician whose party mustered only 57 of the available 650 parliamentary seats (less than 9% of the House) being in the position of kingmaker as the two heavyweight parties lobby and flatter him for his support (without which neither party can command an effective majority to govern) -- a British eBayer called "Keith" decided to auction off the would-be kingmaker on eBay. He wanted to see how much he could get for a politician who is so nakedly whoring himself around Whitehall trying to see which of the two big sugar-daddies would offer him the most for his young chicken self.
The politician in question is The Right Honourable -- and even more Right Wealthy -- Nicholas William Peter Clegg (who, with the studied informality of the very well-heeled, insists "just call me 'Nick'"). He heads Britain's so-called third party -- the Liberal Democrats who have spent the last 90 years taking advantage of the fact they neither they, nor their predecessor party, have held power since World War I, by touting Utopian policies that have zero chance of being implemented.
Clegg is their latest leader to ride this convenient slip-tide and use the "plague on both your houses" tack used by a similar (though less telegenic) American third-party looney -- Ross Perot.
He's a smooth operator with a glib tongue who briefly dazzled the Brits in their first-ever televised leader debates (his mercurial zoom into the opinion poll stratosphere resembled the hysteria-driven ascent of Susan Boyle) before reality set in and his party fizzled into actually losing seats in the election rather than fulfilling his boast that they would double their seats or more.
Now Clegg -- whose big claim was to be different from the old politics -- is offering his party's support to whichever of the two big parties will offer him the juiciest deal. He is -- in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer -- "a man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience".
The eBay description of this politician-for-sale was masterful:
"You are bidding for the affections of this man, a Spanish-speaking manufacturer and creator of kings. Yes, if you need a king swiftly fabricated, then this is your man. May be interested in part-exchange for electoral reform and break-up of financial institutions, WHY - cash either way. No 'buy-it-now' price but make him an offer and he'll do you a deal!"
That eBay was unsure of the listing was conveyed by an initial email Keith received from the online auction company, warning him of of a possible policy violation on the grounds that:
"You are not selling anything tangible in your listing. You may not list intangible items or items whose existence cannot be verified upon receipt of them, such as ghosts, souls or spirits".
As Keith noted, this was a little disturbing for the 6 million people who had been deluded into voting for Clegg's party in last Thursday's election. And probably somewhat disturbing for the politician himself.
In any event -- the auction proceeded with over a thousand people watching the bids -- 46 of which took the price from an opening 0.99 GBP (US $1.50) to 999,999.00 GBP -- a cool million pounds (approx. US $1,480,000) -- in just a few hours.
Questions posed to the seller flooded the eBay system and maxed out eBay's available display area. The questions showed that the famous British skill for satire is still in force. And eBay-Seller Keith demonstrated a dab hand at wit in his replies.
Buyer's Question: "Hi, I'm interested in bidding for this product but have a slight concern. On several occasions I have seen it displaying a sense of moral values. As I would like to use it for political purposes, this would be undesirable..."
Seller's Answer: "The "Morals" application can be disabled if it interferes with other programmes like "Expenses" and "Paid-For Holidays 2"
After a few hours racking up the bids -- and with Clegg himself doing the dance of the seven veils for both of his prospective slave-masters in separate meetings with current Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Conservative Party's self-styled "Heir to Blair" -- the oleaginous David Cameron -- eBay pulled the plug on the listing telling Keith: "Humans may not be listed on eBay".
Keith has said that given that Clegg is a professional politician, he may have grounds to dispute eBay's decision.
Now in the cyber-space where the auction was is just a forlorn sign that says: "This listing (290433096884) has been removed, or this item is not available"
Meanwhile the politician himself continues bunny-hopping around London trying to up his price.
Perhaps the most interesting observation about Clegg came from his deadliest rival in the Liberal Democrats party. His arch-rival Christopher Murray Paul Huhne ("call me Chris") who Clegg defeated for the leadership just three years ago was asked about his colleague and former rival (about whom he now expresses eternal fealty) by the BBC on April 22nd on its flagship "Today Show". Huhne's quote was both interesting and had a coded message patently clear to all Brits and especially all Liberal Democrats. Huhne said of Clegg:
"He would probably be one of David Cameron's bunnies, rushing around measuring the curtains at Number 10." ("Number 10" means "10 Downing Street" -- the official residence and office of Britain's Prime Minister - ie the UK equivalent of The White House.)
What was bizarre about Huhne's comment was the reference to Clegg being one of Cameron's "bunnies."
The word has huge resonance when talking about a leader of the Liberal Democrats. Thirty-five years earlier the party's leader was Jeremy Thorpe -- like Clegg -- a wealthy, privileged Oxbridge graduate who had been educated at an exclusive private boys-only boarding school (with all that that entails...)
JEREMY THORPE in his Cliff Richard days
Jeremy Thorpe was urbane, well-connected always out for a lark, loved outdoors activities such as camping -- and was married to the ex-wife of the Queen's first cousin. He was also a closeted homosexual who was so fearful about one of his past affairs leaking that he allegedly conspired with three pals to have his gay lover murdered. The lover was a young stable lad called Norman Scott, though as time went by Thorpe was to find him a rather un-stable lad.
(The whole matter was specially alarming because their affair had taken place at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in England and when Norman was a very young spring chicken.)
Alas, as Thorpe's conspirators were primarily members of the Liberal Party, the entire business was bungled and the incompetent hit man they hired was described by the late Peter Cook as being "unable to carry out the simplest murder plot without cocking the whole thing up."
The Clegg-Bunnies connection is telling.
The key evidence that convinced the jury that Scott was telling the truth when he spoke of his long affair with the blue-blooded Thorpe was a love-letter that Thorpe had written to Scott assuring the strapping youth that he would be able to have a long-promised vacation. Using his "pet" name for his concubine -- Thorpe wrote to him: "Bunnies can (and will) go to France."
That phrase and in particular the word "Bunnies" is embedded in British political culture. It's as famous in Britain as "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" -- and as instantly recognizable. Especially to leading Liberals who are in the same leadership team as the notorious bugger who originated the phrase.
Huhne and Clegg both attended Westminster School -- the same elite private academy in Central London where young teenage boys live merrily together in the same dorm.
Another pupil at the school at the same time as Clegg is the distinguished Anglo-American documentary-maker Louis Theroux whose anthropological films have been widely seen on US TV. He also made news during the recent election campaign telling the BBC's "One Show" on Friday April 16th that (and this word has a rather different meaning in the UK) "I was Nick Clegg's fag when I was at school."
FAGGING: A British tradition whereby young boys at elite boarding schools are seconded to work as servants (or "fags") for other aristocratic boys. The British class system was founded -- and still thrives -- on it.
Theroux was referring to the 19th century system widespread in exclusive elite private schools (see Lindsay Anderson's 1968 film If...) known as "fagging" -- whereby pupils act as servants for other boys, waking them up in the morning during term time and presenting them with a newspaper, cup of tea and sometimes a bit of crumpet.
Theroux told the BBC: "People sleep in different ways and with Nick Clegg the thing was that he was a very deep sleeper. I would bend over him and kind of push him."
The latest reports from London indicate that "Bunnies can (and will) go to government".
LIBERALS OFFER THE THIRD WAY: "Bunnies" and "Spring Chicken" Face The Media
MORE BACKGROUND ON THE UK ELECTIONS