Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Lord Palmerston


Lord Palmerston, Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount (1774-1865)
While in charge of the War Office, he came under criticism from the radical MP’s for keeping a standing army even after the threat of Bonaparte was long past. Some of the Tories also sided with them and demanded that the military costs should be drastically reduced. Palmerston reminded them that the Army always became unpopular after every war was over and told them the story of the soldiers who marched out of London against the Jacobites in 1745.
“There go our brave guards! There go the pillars of the State.” Cried the people.
“Aye, “said one of the veterans, “but when we have licked the enemy the cry will be. ‘There go the caterpillars of the State.”

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Benjamin Disraeli(1804-1881) the outsider by sheer will and his wit made to the top. On his way he had to demolish quite a few and cut many to size.
He was a dangerous adversary in a verbal duel.
Here are some samples:
on Sir. Robert Peel
‘The Rt. Hon’ble Gentleman’s smile is like the silver fittings on a coffin’.
‘The Rt.Hon’ble Gentleman is reminiscent of a poker. The only difference is that a poker gives off occasional signs of warmth’.
On Lord John Russell who represented Liberals:
If a traveler were informed that such a man was the Leader of the House of Commons, he might begin to comprehend how the Egyptians worshiped an insect.’
On William Ewart Gladstone:
He has not a single redeeming defect.’
He made his conscience not his guide but his accomplice.’
‘He was essentially a prig, and among prigs there is a freemasonry which never fails. All the prigs spoke of him as the coming man.’
On Daniel O’Connell:
‘…a systematic liar and a beggarly cheat; a swindler and a poltroon… He has committed every crime that does not require courage.’
There was dyspeptic philosopher who was impotent but when his bile was up he could bite with especial venom.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) on one occasion cried out against Disraeli thus:‘How long will John Bull allow this absurd monkey to dance on his chest?’

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In The House Of The Lords

The House of Lords was generally considered as the grave of eloquence. When someone remarked that Disraeli would find the Lords tame after the Commons, he replied,”I am dead;dead but in the Elysian fields.”
A young peer once asked Disraeli what course of study he had best undertaken to qualify himself of speaking so as to catch the ear of the House of the Lords.
“Have you a graveyard near your house?” asked Dizzy.
“Then I should recommend you to visit it early of a morning and practise upon the tombstones”.
Final Days
Disraeli was already ill and as he corrected the proof of his final speech in Parliament,he said wearily, ”I’ll not go down to posterity talking bad grammar”.
As death drew near, Disraeli ravaged by gout and asthma,quipped, ‘ I have suffered much. Had I been a nihilist, I would have confessed all.’

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When Churchill was felicitated on his eightieth birthday by a grateful nation, he replied in the House thus, ”I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the nation. It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

The young Churchill was a troublesome boy.
“Churchill, I have very grave reason to be displeased with you.” said the head master of Harrow School.
“And I, sir, have very grave reason to be displeased with you.” replied the impudent scholar.

“Mr. Churchill, I care for neither your politics nor your moustache,” remarked a young female dinner companion to the newly bewhiskered Winston.
“Don’t distress yourself,”  he replied, “You are not likely to come in contact with either.”


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Disraeli’s complete control of the entire House while in opposition and in power, no one else in his day or before equalled- possibly with the exception of Chatham, was due to his ability to take its pulse and respond to it. Towards this he was always present on the House and was prepared. He knew the subject of debate and had an astonishing memory for facts that he did not have to rely on notes.

  He always entered the chamber some five or ten minutes before the proceedings began and he had a solemn air combined with easy confidence. He walked up slowly on the whole length of the floor and when he reached the corner of the table he made a low bow to the Chair. Many M.P’s have found this ceremony painful and feeling self-conscious often have tried to duck it as far as possible. But Disraeli thought it was a necessary duty, a courtly recognition of the supremacy of the Chair. 


Dizzy’s physical appearance and immobility added much to his authority. He sat with rigid head and body gazing vacantly into space, his arms folded across his breast, his hat slightly tilted over his brows, one knee crossing the other. No one in the House heard him laugh or smile; his usual expression when speaking was one of patient stoicism tinged with melancholy. His impassivity bordering on a catatonic state often infuriated his opponents whose diatribes seemed to go past him. But no one could have administered a snub with more telling effect than he but even that was done in a manner that delighted everyone except the one at the receiving end. 


His preeminence in parliament was mainly due to his genius as a speaker, not an orator in the manner of Gladstone or Edmund Burke. He had none of the tricks of their trade. He was fully calm and in control of his emotions and spoke without slurring his words clear and low, more as a man of the world. Standing with his hands on his hips or his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat he spoke in a consistent manner using no emphasis. This supercilious and even tenor in his voice was the result of careful training and it contrasted immeasurably when he wished to make a point. Suddenly he became animated, the tone in his voice changed, an ironic note crept in, the words were enunciated with more care and distinctness; A slight shrug, a quick glance, a fleeting expression of that sallow face drew bated breath from his hearers. They knew what was to follow. It came with an unerring aim and made some gasp and break up the stillness of the House with resounding cheers. He took no notice of the cheers as if he was above such display and continued with his speech as before.

  He indulged little in gestures depending entirely on his voice to achieve its effect.


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SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, British Statesman, writer  ( 1874- 1965 )



Sir Winston’s early desertion from Tory ranks was to haunt him even in ‘20s. In the 1922 elections Churchill saw his party routed and Tories, triumphant and himself defeated at the polls by an unknown Prohibitionist named Edwin Scrymgeor. While in hospital with appendicitis the results came in on which he later observed as thus: ‘In the twinkling of an eye, I found myself without an office, without a seat, without a party and without an appendix.’


Even in his early days in Westminister , he was quite cheeky and his barbed wit had much to do with his events leading to his defection in 1904 from a party,  fortunes of which was later to become synonymous with him. His desertion made him then an outcast among his former associates. On one occasion Sir. William Joynson- Hicks made some statement in the House, to which the young Winston seemed to object.

“I see my Rt. Hon’ble friend shakes his head,” said Sir.Hicks, “but I am only expressing my own opinion.”

“And I,” retorted Churchill, “am only shaking my own head.”


On one occasion Churchill said something which brought another member to his feet choking with vehement protests that  his protests were hardly intelligible.

“My Rt. Hon’ble friend,” said Winston, “should not develop more indignation than he can contain.”


When a rather long winded speech was being delivered in the House of Commons Winston Churchill leaned back with his eyes closed. The speaker observing his response to his speech complained thus, “Must you  fall asleep while I’m speaking?”

“No,” replied Churchill keeping his eyes still closed, “It’s purely voluntary.”


“Winston you’re drunk,” said Bessie Braddock, Socialist member for Liverpool, in the House. “Bessie, you’re ugly and tomorrow I’ll be sober but you’ll still be ugly.” retorted Churchill.


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Once Disraeli feeling indisposed got up from his seat in the Treasury office saying to his secretary, ”Don’t bother me with the routine work. Please attend to all of it yourself.” He walked towards the door and opened it. “But of course if there is any really important decision to be made..” he paused and seconds before closing it behind he added,”…make it.”
A M.P who had been offered a knighthood did not feel easy and he consulted Dizzy who advised him to accept it but tell everyone that he had refused it.
“Because you get all the credit of having rejected it until you recieve it.”
“And then?”
“You will get all the glory of receiving it after having rejected it.”
While engaged in talk with some cronies he at one point said that he could not remember the pub which came up in discussion. The ‘King’s Arms’ at Berkhamstead it was.
One recalled a barmaid who was a very handsome and a jolly girl. ”You must have been in the ‘King’s Arms’ one insisted.
“Perhaps if I had been in her arms I might have remembered it.”Dizzy answered.

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Disraeli’s difficulties lay in the fact both Whigs and Tories distrusted him. He was too individualistic to subscribe to any political program. He disliked the Whigs who had substituted a selfish oligarchy for government while the Tories were on a nosedive loosened from traditions, as leaders of the people and supporter of the monarch. To regain this historical position would sum up his own work for the next half a century.
No one in 1830’s could have guessed that it was feasible, still less that the flashy young Jew would be the motive force behind the Tories. In 1834 Lord Melbourne then Home Secretary met Disraeli in one of the parties. Attracted by his conversation he asked what was his aim. “I want to be the Prime Minister,”replied Disraeli gravely. Melbourne with a weary sigh explained the utter impossibility of such an achievement. He ended with,”You must put all these foolish notions out of your head. This won’t do at all.”
Melbourne when towards the close of ’48 just before his death, heard that Disraeli was to be the leader in the Commons he exclaimed,”By God the fellow will do it, yet.”

Viscount Palmerston, war secretary under many prime ministers was a man of great personal charm and exceptional abilities, perhaps the only member of the House whose brain, Disraeli respected. He was a Lothario and his many amatory adventures were no secret. He stood for many years in the way of Disraeli’s ambitions from achieving their fruition. One of Dizzy’s supporters before an election had collected evidence of a furtive love affair publication of which he was certain would discredit his adversary. Disraeli refused.”Palmerston is now seventy. If he could provide evidence of his potency in his electoral address he would sweep the country,” was his reason.
Like many people who were not native but made England home he was fond of England and the English way of life. However his acute intelligence and robust imagination elicited responses which were so different from that of an Englishman. He loved meeting people from various walks of life especially during political meetings and exchange pleasantries. His opponents seldom missed an opportunity of heckling him.
In delivering a speech he would invariably began slowly and quietly.”Speak up! I can’t hear you!”shouted someone at a Newpost Pagnell meeting in Dec,49. Back came the answer,’Truth travels slowly, but it will reach you in time.’
To one heckler, with whom he was on familiar terms,  who called out,’Speak quick!’ he replied,”It is very easy for you to speak quick when you only utter stupid monosyllables.” He added,”But when I speak I must measure my words; I have to open your great thick head. What I say is to enlighten you. If I bawled like you, you would leave this place as great a fool as you entered it.”
Sometimes political hostility took on more personal forms. One jibed at him that his wife had picked him out of the gutter. His reply was a model of incisive wit delivered in his customary cool and unflappable composure. Dizzy replied,”My dear fellow, if you were in the gutter nobody would pick you out”.
His power of ridicule when given a cause was superb and he could floor anyone whether in the House or outside with a verbal thrust. By nature he was genial and never went out to aggravate the feeling of those whom he disliked. Once in the House he chose to ignore a vicious attack of one whom despised with an excuse, ”I have given him the mercy of my silence.”

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Even when Disraeli was young he lived by the maxim:’To govern men you must either excel them in their accomplishments or despise them.”Dizzy hated every bodily exertion and everything his contemporaries were passionate about. While at Malta he happened to remain in the galley watching English officer at a game of tennis. Ever at pains to play a dandy he picked the ball which flew and stopped by his side. While the player waited for the ball to be thrown back he gingerly picked it up. With exaggerated affectation he asked the one near to him for the ball to be forwarded to the court. His excuse was that he had never thrown a ball in his life.
Disraeli Contests
In 1832 Disraeli stood for High Wycombe as a radical. From the portico of the Red Lion he spoke with flourishes and verve for one and a half hours. Winding up his speech to the electorate he declaimed pointing the head of the lion above,” When the poll is declared I shall be there,” and pointing to the tail he continued,”my opponent will be there.” The mob applauded him warmly but the Corporation and burgesses who controlled the election consigned him to the tail.
After many futile attempts to enter the House of Commons Disraeli managed to enter the House on 1837. On Dec.7 he rose to make his maiden speech, following Daniel O’Connel whose Irish Party gave the Whigs their majority. His elaborate sentences and stylish manner were to the radicals, like red flag waving before a bull. They had not forgotten his attacks on O’connel a few years ago. They laughed uproariously as he began and despite his persistent appeals to gain a hearing he was booed at. Nevertheless he persisted and he was barely audible. He said,”I am not at all surprised at the reception I have experienced. I have begun several things many times, and I have often succeeded at last as they had done before me.”More hubbub. Upto this point he had appeared unruffled and good humored. But now in a voice almost a scream he shot out,”I sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.”
compiler: benny

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While engaged in an after dinner smoke at one of the parties, Colonel Weber who had a reputation as a rake said to Disraeli, ”Take care, my good fellow, I lost the most beautiful woman in the world by smoking,”and he added that the custom has prevented more liasons than the dread of a duel or a divorce.
“You have proved that it is a very moral habit,”replied Disraeli between puffs.
He could be extremely cutting when occasion called for it. Once during a party the host after praising a certain wine urged him to drink it.”Well,”said the host,”I have got wine 20 times as good in my cellar.”
“No doubt,: replied Disraeli glancing around the table,”but my dear fellow this is good enough for such ‘canaille’ as you have here today.”
compiler: benny

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