Genes Reunited Blog
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750 years ago, English parliament met in Westminster for the first time. Ever since then, politicians walking the corridors of power have done whatever it takes to keep the country running smoothly and expense every meal they possibly can, from larks’ tongues to Boots meal deals (bizarrely both of those were John Prescott). Over the past seven centuries, Westminster has hosted the people who have had perhaps more sway over our society than anyone else.
It has also played host to more offensive rhetoric and back-biting than every Christmas special in the Queen Vic.
Strict rules are in place, banning the use of unparliamentary language, including words like ‘git’, ‘tart’, ‘coward’ and ‘blackguard’, meaning that politicians throughout history have had to resort to imaginative comebacks to convey their contempt.
Here’s a list of politicians and their affiliates leaving no doubt over their feelings for their adversaries from the golden age of clever rich people beating each other over the head with the full extent of the English language. To see more of these insults in action, explore our newspaper archive.
- “That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles, or your mistress.”The retort of John Wilkes after the Earl of Sandwich informed him that “Upon my soul, Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die upon the gallows, or of syphilis”
- A retail mind in a wholesale business. –
- He brings to the fierce struggle of politics the tepid enthusiasm of a lazy summer afternoon at a cricket match. –
- He did not seem to care which way he travelled, as long as he was in the driver’s seat. –
- He is a self-made man and worships his creator. –
- He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened. –
- He spent his whole life in plastering together the true and the false and therefrom manufacturing the plausible. –
- He would kill his own mother just so that he could use her skin to make a drum to beat his own praises. –
- His impact on history would be no more than the whiff of scent on a lady’s handkerchief. –
- I think Baldwin has gone mad. He simply takes one jump in the dark; looks around and then takes another. –
- I thought he was a young man of promise; but it appears he was a young man of promises. –
- If a traveller were informed that such a man was the leader of the House of Commons, he might begin to comprehend how the Egyptians worshipped an insect. –
- If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune, and if anybody pulled him out that, I suppose, would be a calamity. –
- If Kitchener was not a great man, he was at least, a great poster. –
- It was said Mr Gladstone could convince most people of most things, and himself of anything. –
- The right honourable and learned gentleman has twice crossed the floor of this House, each time leaving behind a trail of slime. –
- The Right Honourable Gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests and to his imagination for his facts. –
- Winston has devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches. –