More U.K. Political Humour

Commentator Werewolf at Washington Monthly related the following story in response to my post about humor and politics in the UK:

During a debate in the Commons, an MP shouted:

“The right honorable gentleman has the manners of a pig.”

(From the opposite side):

“Boo!” “Retract!”

Original speaker:

“I retract my last statement. The right honorable gentleman *hasn’t* the manners of a pig.”

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

19 thoughts on “More U.K. Political Humour”

  1. In the same vein, the famous comment of Stevens to Lincoln (until I looked, I was mis-rmembering as by Lincoln) on Secretary of War Cameron.

    Is he honest?
    I don’t think he would steal a red-hot stove.

    When Cameron insisted on a retraction, Stevens said, “I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back.”

    (Cameron is also credited with “an honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”)

    1. “an honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.

      Molly Ivins had a great story about at Texas pol who took one side’s money (say, $5K) and then – having taken a bigger sum from the other side – voted against them. The lobbyist for the first side cornered the pol and proceeded to chew him out, whereupon the pol explained it was the lobbyist’s own fault: “you should have known I was weak when I took your $5K”.

      1. whups, above comment was me.

        Any chance we’ll get commenter identity persistence back anytime soon?

  2. I think the best example of UK political humor is the possibly apocryphal exchange attributed variously to the Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes, or to Gladstone and Disraeli:

    Earl of Sandwich: ‘Pon my soul, Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die upon the gallows or of the pox.
    Wilkes: That depends, my Lord, whether I first embrace your Lordship’s principles, or your Lordship’s mistresses.

    Charles Petrie, The Four Georges (1935)

  3. This is all very well, but go back to the debates (if such they may be called) surrounding the Parliament Act 1911, especially the occasion (24 July 1911) on which the Prime Minister was refused a hearing. The relevant page of Hansard yields, to say the least, no ice-breaking witticisms.

  4. My uncle told me of a Bakersfield Assemblyman who referred to another Assemblyman as “worthless” on the floor. (Okay, it was worse than worthless, but this is a family-friendly blog.)

    He was ordered by the leadership to make a public apology on the floor.

    “I recently referred to Assemblyman So-and-so as ‘worthless’. I would like to say I’m sorry that Assemblyman So-and-so is worthless.”

  5. My favorite example of the British approach to politics comes from Hansard for 6 May 2003,
    in which the House of Lords considers the safety of food packaging,
    and pivots effortlessly to unsolicited email.

    Starts about halfway down this page and goes on brilliantly for the next page or so.

    excerpt (but not the best bit):

    “Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree. These statistics on accidents are extremely fascinating; they prove that the British public can use practically anything in this world to hurt themselves with. It is understandable that there are an estimated 55 accidents a year from putty, while toothpaste accounts for 73. However, it is rather bizarre that 823 accidents are estimated to be the result of letters and envelopes. It is difficult to understand how they can be the cause of such serious plight. …”

    And any political system that produces a Baroness Strange certainly has much to recommend it.

    1. priceless, especially “My Lords, that goes wider than my knowledge of corned beef”

      Thanks for the link

  6. In a similar vein, it’s alleged that LBJ once told an aide he was going to call an opponent a pig-f***er.

    When the aide objected that the insult was, among other things, false, LBJ reportedly replied,

    “I know. I just want to hear him deny it.”

  7. Keith:

    The last time you posted about politics, your subject was Christie. I pointed out you were wrong, that there was no way he would ever be President because he didn’t have a chance in the primary. In response, you deleted my post and banned me from the forum.

    I just wanted to stop by to point out that Nate Silver says the data agrees with me.

    You can delete my posts and ban me from this forum all you want. If I care to post, I still can, because your system is wide open and anyone with a modicum of technical savvy. I probably won’t, because hey, if you don’t want me around, I don’t want to bother you.

    But I do want to point out that the net effect of banning my posts disagreeing with your political prognostications is to dumb down the discussion. I am right, and you are wrong. That isn’t an ad hominum attack, it is just a fact well supported by empirical data.

    1. banned me from the forum

      You haven’t been banned from anything and no one has made any effort to ban you. Only one person has *ever* been banned from RBC and that was years ago.

      Individual comments are deleted when they are abusive to bloggers or to other commenters, irrespective of whether they contain good content. Nothing is deleted simply because someone disagrees with someone else, that would make no sense.

      1. Suppose maybe “conspiracy theory” got hit by the disappearing-commenter-ID-cookies issue and thought their “account” had been deleted, or some such?

        But, yeah, “conspiracy theory”‘s comment is rather less than convincing.

        1. No, my IP address was banned. First, I had my post deleted. It was there, and several people engaged with it (just as you have here, Warren) and then my comment was gone but the replies remained. (if you want to check for yourself, it was Keith’s post suggesting Chris Christie could get elected president). Later, when I tried to post again under my regular pseudonym from my regular computer, and it wouldn’t post. So I tried posting through a proxy server, and it posted just fine.

          It is obvious what happened. I pissed off Keith, he deleted my post, and he black listed my IP address. It really isn’t very complicated.

          1. I think what you may have run into has been a rather old and annoying issue with the spam filtering. I’ve had posts eaten quietly more than once (and from what other people said, I’ve not been the only person). I can usually get them posted eventually by removing links (usually, but not always to non-US domains) and/or rephrasing paragraphs.

            I’m not sure what software they’re using; but the symptoms I’ve been seeing are consistent with what happens when Akismet is a bit overzealous, and Akismet also takes IP addresses into account when determining whether a comment is spam or legitimate.

            (For what it’s worth, I’m not actually complaining; comment spam is, in the end, the greater evil, and all automated spam filtering solutions will be imperfect to some degree.)

  8. I admire the British House of Commons for its pugnacious, college-debating atmosphere … but it can be cruel.

    Sir Edward Marshall Hall was the greatest British forensic orator of the early years of the 20th century. He was elected an MP and it seemed a great career beckoned.

    However, his maiden speech was about pub opening hours – a young girl had written to him apparently about the shame of going down to the pub to collect ale for her parents. Trying to tell her story, someone interjected “perhaps the ale could be delivered”. Possibly confused by being interupted, and not used to a robustly responsive audience, Hall repeated the phrase “perhaps the ale could be delivered”. The House erupted in laughter at the great orator, and his speech fell flat. I think he was re-elected, but his political career fizzled out. He was remembered as the MP who proposed delivering ale to people’s houses.

    Hall’s legal career continued to prosper, however.

  9. I wonder how old that ‘not fit for the pigs’ insult was. I recall just about the same joke being submitted to me as Jokes Editor of my 7th grade newspaper in 1957. (Yes, I can recall a few of the jokes submitted to me on that occasion – that’s why I was made the jokes editor…). It may have hit the House of Commons before that year, or just been too tempting a sample of a standard form insult and non-retraction.

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