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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Of sheep and willies

Contemporary politicians are not known for their quick wits. They've had to think so hard about the career implications of anything they say that you generally hear their jokes coming for weeks before they arrive. Last night's BBC Four history of deputy Prime Ministers, "Every Prime Minister Needs A Willie", had a few good ones. When Herbert Morrison, Peter Mandelson's grandfather, was told that cabinet rival Ernest Bevin was his own worst enemy he muttered "not while I'm alive he's not". Dennis Healey's line about Geoffrey Howe and the dead sheep retains its surreal fascination. Everyone who knew her agrees that Margaret Thatcher not only never told jokes - she literally didn't understand them either. This is a rare and worrying quality in anyone. She uttered the line that gave the show its name and didn't see why people laughed.

2 comments:

  1. In Hugo Young's Thatcher biography 'One of Us' he reported that a speech had been written for her in which she likened a Labour politician to Moses handing down the commandments. The punchline was, 'Keep taking the tablets.' By the time Thatcher said it the line was a completely meaningless, 'Keep taking the pills.' Not only had she failed to see the joke, she hadn't realised that her ammendment made the statement gibberish. She did share one quality with you, David, apparently you survive on so little sleep that you blog at 6.30am.

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  2. Churchill may have been misogynist, but he was quick - when Lady Astor accused him of being drunk he is alleged to have replied "and you are ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober".
    I suspect Gordon Brown's jokebook is a fairly slim document.

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