Will I be glad when it’s all over… Letting it be known that you’re the chief executive of the local hospital has always had the proclivity to silence the most genteel of dinner parties, or to quell the cacophony at the most boisterous of pubs.

But now more that ever it’s time to keep your head down as the gloves are well and truly off in the quinquennial bash-the-bureaucrat fest. For it is a matter of causal fact that an election displaces our traditional English reserve and the great unwashed seem happy - nay obliged - to ask how much you earn, what you claim on expenses, and how quickly you could be replaced by a dumb terminal.

Time to go incognito. Time to implement the golden rules of purdah survival.

  • When asked what you do, say you work in audit. This response is guaranteed to turn your inquisitor’s head towards the person on their left or move the conversation on to the price of cat food or the joys of watching paint dry.
  • Dress badly, and under no circumstances wear any clothes with designer labels. Except possibly Primark. Channel Princess Margaret and sport a charity shop headscarf and sunglasses, helping you avoid both recognition and eye contact.
  • Only write with a pencil, and use one with a rubber on the end. And write illegibly, in code. On rice paper. Which you then eat.
  • Either (a) lose your voice or (b) agree with everyone about everything. Although easier on the throat, (b) is much harder on the principles. However, one should remember that during purdah the value of principles has been index-linked to the Greek economy.
  • Do not eat out. Slip Waitrose groceries into Aldi bags and arrange for the Ocado van to deliver to your neighbour’s house.
  • Finally, hole up. Draw the curtains, take the cellophane off that Christmas box-set of Sex and the City, put on your at-home comfies and settle down to 50 hours of uninterrupted viewing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for series 5, episode 4.