In the wake of the proposed ban on smoking, inmates at Belmarsh are to adopt the humble ‘spud’ as the preferred medium of barter while in prison. Economists are aware that the penal system revolves around a thriving black market and it needs a mechanism for prisoners to purchase illegal drugs, posters of James Corden and copies of the latest Dan Brown novel.
For generations cigarettes have been the standard tender, so their removal could cause a fiscal crisis. One analyst explained: ‘There will be a period of adjustment in exchange rates and some quantitative easing involving oven chips, but we expect the ‘King Edward’ to become the gold standard for the prison economy’. It is not the first time this ‘tuber’ has be used as currency, as the citizens of the South Atlantic Island of Tristan de Cunha will attest, although it is not clear how often they used it to purchase bootleg alcohol, protection from ‘Mr Big’ or a Stuart Hall autograph.
The ‘root vegetable coin’ offers the right balance of circulation, stable value and something that goes well with baked beans. Several other forms of currency were considered such as News of the World journalists, MPs and 1970’s TV stars - but with the recent influx there were fears of hyperinflation. In fact so devalued was Chris Huhne, that by the end of his sentence a night of ‘speed point lovin’ with the disgraced Lib Dem was worth a mere ’three filter tips’. The potato is unique in that it is loaded with complex carbohydrates, fat-free and can be used as an improvised ‘shiv’ during a riot.