Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Simpson not up to Lloyd George's Standard

The political insult was an art I thought was in decline until I heard of Alan Simpson's quip that choosing between Blair and Brown was like choosing 'between Saddam Hussein and his son Uday.' Inevitably, being so rude about two of the schoolmasters has earned rebuke and it seems Chief Whip Jacqui Smith, is soon to roll out a disciplinary code that would allow her to suspend members guilty of such insubordination.

Given our adversarial system and political culture it would be foolish to ban political insults. I would suggest instead that MPs should be reprimanded if their efforts turn out to be too feeble- for example, Cameron's creaky sally about Blair being the 'David Brent of British politics' It's not at all like the old days of Disraeli or FE Smith when they really knew how to hone the insults. Lloyd George for example said of two leading French politicians: 'Poincare knows everything and understands nothing- Briand understands everything and knows nothing.' Or Herbert Asquith's wife Margot's reply to Jean Harlow when asked about the pronunciation of her Christian name: 'The T is silent - as in Harlow.' OK, that's not really a political insult so here's my favourite(and cruellest) one, again by LG: he said of fellow Liberal Herbert Samuel, 'When they circumcised him, they threw away the wrong bit.'

I liked Denis Healey's put down... "The Prime Minister (Mrs Thatcher) has given the French president a piece of her mind, not a gift I would receive with alacrity."
Another Denis Healey classic (on Howe): "That part of his speech was rather like being savaged by a dead sheep".

Harold Wilson: "Debating against him is no fun, say something insulting and he looks at you like a whipped dog". (Not sure whom he said this of.)
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