The "greatest" Conservative quotes of all time

Which is your favourite?

In bold defiance of David Cameron's recent claim that "too many twits might make a twat", the official Conservative Party Twitter feed is canvassing users of the fashionable micro-blogging site for their "favourite Conservative Party quotes from history". So many to choose from! Here is a compendium of "favourites" from the NS office. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments thread.

 

"The balance of our population, our human stock is threatened." Sir Keith Joseph, speech at Edgbaston, 19 October 1974

 

"People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture." Margaret Thatcher, in a Granada TV interview, January 1978

 

"If higher unemployment is the price we have to pay in order to bring inflation down, then it is a price worth paying." Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1992

 

"One shark turned to the other to say he was fed up chasing tuna and the other said, 'Why don't we go to Morecambe Bay and get some Chinese?'" Ann Winterton MP, making a joke about the deaths of Chinese cockle pickers, at a dinner party in Whitehall in February 2004

 

"There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." Prime minister Margaret Thatcher, in an interview with Woman's Own magazine, October 1987

 

"We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre." Enoch Powell, "Rivers of Blood" speech, April 1968

 

"I feel I have had a very interesting life, but I am rather hoping there is still more to come. I still haven't captained the England cricket team, or sung at Carnegie Hall!" Jeffrey Archer, convicted of perjury in 2001

 

"He's a good, brave and honourable soldier." Norman Lamont on ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, January 1999

 

"I'm also very much aware that it is you who brought democracy to Chile, you set up a constitution suitable for democracy, you put it into effect, elections were held, and then, in accordance with the result, you stepped down." Margaret Thatcher, speaking to Pinochet, 1999

 

"My dad didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work" Norman Tebbit, speaking in the aftermath of the Brixton and Toxteth riots, 1981.

"If gay marriage was OK ... then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog." Boris Johnson, in his book Friends, Voters, Countrymen (2001)

 

"The only solution is to kill 600 people in one night. Let the UN and Bill Clinton and everyone else make a scene - and it is over for 20 years." Alan Clark MP, on how to deal with the IRA

 

"My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds." Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister, September 1938

 

"I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes." Winston Churchill, war office departmental minutes, 1919

 

"The General Strike has taught the working class more in four days than years of talking could have done." Arthur Balfour, 1926

 

"We have to give some satisfaction to both the upper classes and the masses. This is especially difficult with the upper classes - because all legislation is rather unwelcome to them, as tending to disturb a state of things with which they are satisfied. It is evident, therefore, that we must work at less speed and at a lower temperature than our opponents. Our bills must be tentative and cautious, not sweeping and dramatic." Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, in a letter to Lord Randolph Churchill, November 1886

 

"We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty." Margaret Thatcher on the miners' strike, July 1984

 

"Hang Mandela." campaign slogan of the Federation of Conservative Students during the 1980s, during which time its chairman was John Bercow, now Speaker of the House of Commons

 

"Bastards." John Major, prime minister, on his cabinet colleagues, July 1993

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder