The Returning Officer: Camels II


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In October 1932, there was a House of Commons debate on import duties. Barnett Janner, the Liberal MP for Whitechapel and St George’s, who had been gassed in the First World War, declared that the tax on grapefruit was “the last straw on the camel’s back”.

Leslie Hale, the Labour MP for Oldham and Oldham West (1945-68), mentioned camels seven times in his parliamentary career. For example, in a 1955 debate, he said that the then chancellor, Rab Butler, had been seen as an intellectual oasis in a “desert of frontbench mediocrity” but was now respected by fewer of the “backbench camels”. 

This article appears in the 14 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Easter Double