Politicians

In view of the forthcoming General Election, here is a selection of remarks on British MPs published by ex-MP Matthew Parris in his ‘Scorn with Extra Bile’ (1995 and later editions).

He lied and lied and lied.

Guardian headline on the news that former Tory Minister Jonathan Aitkin had withdrawn his libel case against the paper, 1997.

Jail Him!—Aitkin: serial liar, cheat, coward. His marriage is over and he faces a £2 million legal bill. It is not punishment enough. He must be sent to jail…he is unfit to mop the floor in a soup kitchen. He is not just a failure as a politician. He is a failure as a human being.

The Mirror on Aitkin.

Mr Aitkin was duly tried and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Here he ‘ got religion’. He is now a minister at St Matthews church, Stoke Newington. By declaring himself bankrupt he managed to avoid paying the enormous costs awarded against him, though the Guardian suspected him of having more resources than he admitted to.

A semi-house trained polecat.

Michael Foot on Norman Tebbit.

In March 2022 Mr Tebbit ( aka ‘ the Chingford skinhead ‘ ) retired from politics aged 90.

…He was always the sort of Socialist who would do anything for the workers except like them.

Bruce Anderson on Roy Hattersley in The Spectator.

Apparently Hattersley has written three ‘ novels ‘ and several biographies. He retired from politics and is little heard of nowadays.

Harold Wilson was one of the men who ruined post-war Britain. He was a small posturing visionless politician, personally pleasant to his friends and even his enemies, amusing, irreverent and apparently kind. But his public work was a long strung-out disaster, overlaid by the impression at the time that it was at least dextrously accomplished.

Hugo Young, the Guardian, 1995.

The Bertie Wooster of Marxism

Anonymous, about Tony Benn.

A rather harsh verdict on the former Viscount Stansgate, whose son Stephen inherited the title that his father renounced. It’s hard to imagine Bertie Wooster swapping champagne for copious mugs of tea.

A perfectly good second-class chemist, a Beta chemist…she wasn’t an interesting person, except as a Conservative…I would never, if I had amusing, interesting people staying, have thought of asking Margaret Thatcher.

Dame Janet Vaughan ( former tutor at Somerville College, Oxford) on Margaret Thatcher.

It is a myth that Mrs Thatcher helped develop soft ice cream while working for J. Lyons. There is much more evidence that she was part of a group improving the quality of cake and pie fillings. 

She is happier getting in and out of tanks than in and out of museums or theatre seats. She seems to derive more pleasure from admitting new missiles than great works of art. What else can expect from an ex-Spam hoarder from Grantham presiding over the social and economic decline of the country?

Tony Banks on Margaret Thatcher.

The Prime Minister tells us that she has given the French president a piece of her mind—not a gift I would receive with alacrity.

Denis Healey on Margaret Thatcher.

This remark from my late uncle is a new one for me. Presumably it is accurate.

Petain in petticoats

Denis Healey ( pic above) on Margaret Thatcher.

I am not a doctor.

Edward Heath, declining to speculate on why Mrs Thatcher disliked him.

A genuinely witty rejoinder from a man not known for his wit. The feelings were mutual. Sir Edward invariably referred to his rival as ‘ that woman ‘.

Attila the Hen

Clement Freud on Margaret Thatcher

It is said that at one of her weekly audiences with the Queen, the then Mrs Thatcher was dismayed that she and the Queen were wearing identical outfits. She asked her office to suggest to the Palace that, to avoid embarrassment, they inform her in advance of Her Majesty’s proposed dress. ‘That will not be necessary’, was the response. ‘Her Majesty does not notice what other people are wearing.’

An often quoted story.

On the last Sunday of the 1983 General Election campaign I represented the Labour Party at a ‘Question Time’ organized by TVS in Gillingham, Kent and filmed before an audience. Whilst I was responding to a question about Margaret Thatcher, a member of the audience interrupted with a shout of ‘At last she’s got guts’. I responded immediately by saying’ It’s a pity that others had to lose theirs at Goose Green to prove it.’

Neil Kinnock, letter to the editor of this book. Mr Kinnock points out that there were demands that he withdraw his statement. He didn’t, he says, ‘not least because several people in, or associated with, the Forces took the trouble to let me know that they thought I should stand by what I said.’

He will be as greater curse to this country in peace as he was a squalid nuisance in time of war.

Winston Churchill on Aneurin Bevan.

Nevertheless, Churchill, though hating socialists, was generous in his praise of Bevan on the latter’s early death in 1960. 

No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical and social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory party…So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.

Aneurin Bevan

Always in the wrong, always surrounded by crooks, a most unsuccessful father—simply a ‘ Radio personality ‘ who outlived his prime.

Evelyn Waugh on Winston Churchill.

It has been suggested that Waugh, an inveterate critic of Churchill’s writings, was a ‘ teensy-weensy bit jealous of his popularity as a writer.

It was almost impossible to believe he was anything but a down-at-heel actor resting between engagements at the decrepit theatres of minor provincial towns.

Bernard Levin on Harold Macmillan, The Pendulum Years.

R. M. Healey

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