WE'VE all had scenarios where we've wanted the ground to open up and swallow us.
Those excruciating moments when, no matter how hard we wrack our brains, the perfect comeback woefully escapes us.
Spare a thought then for junior Treasury minister Chloe Smith, who has taken the meaning of bad day at the office to a whole new level.
Asked on to Newsnight to defend the Government's decision to postpone the impending rise in fuel duty, it was an occasion where "the dog ate my homework" just wasn't going to swing it as an excuse.
During her protracted grilling by Jeremy Paxman, Smith looked about as comfortable as Mary Whitehouse at the Playboy Mansion. One only had to watch the frantic displacement activity – the fortifying gulps of water – to realise that Smith was drowning fast.
As a viewer, I went from feeling mildly amused, to toe-squirmingly embarrassed, to looking around for a leather strap to bite down on. Goodness knows, then, what was going through her mind.
The urge to reach into the television to strangle Paxman – and arguably Smith to put her out of her misery – was insurmountable.
So how best to deal with a situation where your credibility is disappearing faster than copies of Fifty Shades Of Grey flying off a bookshelf?
There's always the Ann Widdicombe option of a playful cuff round the ear. Or the Michael Portillo trick of chiding: "Oh Jeremy, do stop this nonsense."
Or there's the approach favoured by former prime minister Gordon Brown who, after a bizarre exchange with Sky News's Adam Boulton, stormed off-set with cameras still rolling and microphone attached.
Alternatively, you could copy what Smith did: grit your teeth, keep repeating the party line and hope it's over soon. Presumably followed by going home, drinking a vat of wine and throwing darts at a photograph of the incorrigibly smug Paxman.
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