Staying in neutral part three

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Were the figures really “complete garbage”?

Conspicuous by its absence during this campaign has been the memorable political insult to put down a rival.

We have had Sir Keir Starmer accusing Rishi Sunak of using ‘misleading’ figures in a televised leaders’ debate, saying that they were “complete garbage”.

But that has been about it, and, frankly, even that wasn’t up to much!

Denis Healey called an attack by Geoffrey Howe as like “being savaged by a dead sheep”

In days gone by, however, it has been different – and not just during a General Election (GE).

In 1978, for example, we had Denis Healey unforgettably describing an attack by his Tory rival Sir Geoffrey Howe as like “being savaged by a dead sheep“.

There was Harold Wilson’s jibe about Conservative leader Edward Heath, that he was “a shiver looking for a spine to run up”.

Sir Winston Churchill was sometimes grumpy, but often witty..,.

Fellow Labourite (although now despised by the party) Ramsay MacDonald, though, appeared to take a different view of the Tories, saying that they were “gentlemen”, but that the Liberals were “cads”.

The Conservatives were not themselves above a bit of political abuse which might make good fodder for headline-writers.

The chief purveyor of this kind of wit, was, of course, Sir Winston Churchill (when he WAS a Tory!).

Clement Attlee had “much to be modest about”

We were offered, for instance, his droll insult about Labour Prime Minister (PM) Clement Attlee: “An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened, Attlee got out.

Not forgetting the classic: “He (Attlee) is a modest man with much to be modest about”.

If you go further back in time they were even more abusive insults (and witty).

There was Benjamin Disraeli’s putdown of Sir Robert Peei: “The Right Honourable Gentleman’s smile was like the silver plate on a coffin”.

Disraeli’s rivalry with Gladstone was one of the fiercest in history

Or the attack on his rival William Gladstone (and as rivalries go this one is hard to beat): “If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune, and if anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity”.

The Liberals get a look in too, with memorable phrases from one of their greatest, the Welsh wizard David Lloyd George.

One was aimed at Sir John Simon, when he declared: “The right honourable and learned gentleman has twice crossed the floor of the house, each time leaving behind a trail of slime”.

Lloyd George said Sir John Simon left a “trail of slime”.

“He would make a drum out of the skin of his own mother in order to sound his own praises”, was another good Lloyd George insult, and this one targeted at Churchill.

It seems a shame we haven’t had this kind stuff during the 2024 campaign.

“Complete garbage”, doesn’t really make it…


The memories of our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry’sremarkable decades long award-winning career in journalism (during which political insults from politicians were far more memorable) as he was gripped by the rare and incurable neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now.


Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.