Last night, I took part in the new series of podcasts from House of Comments, along with Labour blogger Emma Burnell and Lib Dem Mark Thompson. We covered the big stories of the week, Leveson and the rise of UKIP, as well as a bit of a look forward to what might be in the Autumn Statement.
There’s a typically perceptive piece out today by the BBC’s Brian Wheeler – one of the nice guys in political media – about the Barnsley by-election.
One of the background bits of colour he reports brought a smile to my face; the slightly unusual codename the Labour candidate has chosen for his campaign. It is called “Operation Honey Badger”.
The name has quite a few undertones. For a start, the Honey Badger sounds like a lovely creature but is actually notoriously vicious (find out more from the engrossing HoneyBadger.com) with a sweet name, but packing a nasty punch if you get too close.
The thing that it particularly brought to mind, though, was one of the weirdest incidents in the history of war reporting.
Considering that the Labour candidate in Barnsley, Dan Jarvis, recently left the Parachute Regiment, you may not be too surprised to learn that the Honey Badger’s most recent brush with notoriety was in relation to the British operation in Iraq.
Back in 2007, the Army was forced to go the remarkable length of publicly denying a rumour sweeping Basra “that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic”. What one Basra housewife referred to as a creature “as swift as a deer…the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey” later turned out to be – you guessed it – a Honey Badger. Presumably Mr Jarvis heard the story at the time and it’s stayed with him.
It’s an odd little tale, but whatever his other political sins Dan Jarvis certainly can’t be accused of lacking a sense of humour. Presumably he is hoping that his campaign spokesmen won’t end up having to put out a statement as weird as that the British Army released last time a Honey Badger graced the media:
UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.