I've used the "Calm down dear" line on my wife, but would plead in mitigation that a) I've loved her dearly for twenty-some years, and b) in casting myself as Michael Winner I'm effectively evacuating the moral high ground and conceding the argument. I don't think this would be a fair characterisation of what David Cameron thought he was doing when he put down Angela Eagle last week.
Still, the scandal lay not in the rudeness or possible sexism but in the indifference to ordinary fact. Cameron - irrelevantly, to score a cheap point - had said that the former Labour MP Howard Stoate had been defeated by a Conservative candidate at the general election; Eagle pointed out that Dr. Stoate had stood down; Cameron made a bad joke. Knowing that you have said something untrue and refusing to correct the mistake - isn't that lying? It's depressing that the media were so uninterested in that aspect of the affair.
The prime minister was showing a similarly relaxed attitude to truth this morning on Radio 4: John Humphrys, interviewing him on the Today programme, asked about supposed falsehoods in the "No to AV" campaign; jesting Cameron replied that the referendum campaign had been "robust", and that he was not personally responsible for the content Humphrys was talking about. I wonder: when Damian McBride talked about spreading a rumour that Cameron had venereal disease, would Cameron have settled for Gordon Brown waving the matter aside as "robust" campaigning? Or is it only some sorts of lie that we don't allow?