Fair is fowl and fowl is fair

Now I know what a susceptor is, I'd like one put inside George Osborne's pants - actually, I wouldn't mind having one put inside my own pants, or indeed just about everyone's pants on this godforsaken Siberian island of ours. A susceptor, for those of you not up to speed on the wonders of dielectric heating applied to cooking technology, is a thin layer of aluminium either seamed through the packaging of microwaveable foods, or inside the small plastic or paper trays they reside on. The metal absorbs infrared energy efficiently and then radiates it inwards towards the food (or the Chancellor's genitals, pubic area and possibly lower belly, depending on whether he's a briefs or boxers sort of a chap).

With the use of susceptors, microwave ovens - which cook at relatively low temperatures - can do all sorts of clever things such as activating the oil necessary to pop popcorn, or possibly stimulating cold fish like Osborne. Look, I'm not suggesting that we actually want a satyromane in charge of the British economy, but I do think the Oik - as I believe the St Paul's School old boy is known to his Old Etonian Tory colleagues - could do with a little gingering up. Last September, when yet again those tedious allegations of him snorting cocaine with a dominatrix back in the naughty 1990s resurfaced, we were told by the Prime Minister's spokesman, "the Chancellor is 100 per cent focused on the economy".

Banquet bonus

Personally, it's this that I hold against Osborne - after all, who among us can say that we haven't snorted the occasional "big fat line" offered us by a dominatrix? The Archbishop of Canterbury has done it with Pope Benedict - Tony Blair did it with Rupert Murdoch; we all, no matter how
pure and exalted, have a Mistress Pain somewhere in our closet.

No, it's this focusing 100 per cent on the economy that's causing all the trouble - what Georgie-boy needs to do is to take a load off, get out his reusable hessian shopping bag and boogie down to Sainsbury's where he can pick up a whole series of excellent microwaveable meals-for-two for under a tenner.The other evening my very own Mistress Pain said to me, "What shall we have for supper?" and without more ado I did just that. The Sainsbury's Indian banquet - yes, banquet! - for two comes in an attractive ministerial-style purple box with attached handle and there are options of either chicken jalfrezi and chicken tikka masala (which I opted for), or a milder korma/masala version. As well as the two main dishes, there's a generous container of pilau rice, a plain naan bread and four onion bhajis. This is a lot of food to microwave a container at a time but that's not a problem because the bhajis and the naan have to be done in a conventional oven, so by juggling appliances and plates you can ensure it's all piping hot when it limps the ten feet from counter top to tabletop.

Ghee whizz

Why, I hear you scream, are you banging on about this bloody microwaveable Indian meal!? The answer is simple: it's all about the economy, dummy. My banquet was reduced to £7, so I was able to satisfy both the insatiable Mistress Pain and my own rather limper appetite for £3.50 a head. The food itself tastes damn good - no, let me rephrase that: this was the best Indian meal I've eaten in the past fucking year, and I include in that a state banquet in New Delhi at which I was seated next to the president and she popped balls of gold-leaf-encrusted saffron rice into my mouth with her own fair hands. Indeed, compared to the average Indian sit-down - let alone takeaway - Sainsbury's wins hands-down on cost and quality.

I expect Sainsbury's chicken is sourced no more or less ethically than the fowls cooked up by my local balti house - but it tasted more succulent to me. The sauces of the main dishes were also way less ghee-y than I'm accustomed to - and all the better for it. The onion bhajis were the hot bollocks - Osborne, take note - while the pilau rice was cooked so perfectly that I could comb the grains into perfect regularity with the tines of my fork.

As for the Sainsbury's naan, well, as a belated anniversary tribute to the Scots Bard I can only observe, A naan's a naan for a'that. If only Osborne understood this, but I'm afraid for him it isn't the case that: "The rank is but the guinea's stamp/The Man's the gowd for a' that..." Rather it's the gowd that counts.

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 20 February 2012 issue of the New Statesman, How do we stop Iran getting the bomb?

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.