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8 May 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:45am

The Returning Officer: Camels III

By Stephen Brasher

In 1951 the Tory MP Sir John Foster (Northwich, 1945-74) asked why camel meat could not be imported to supplement food rations. The Labour minister Fred Willey (MP for Sunderland/Sunderland North, 1945-83), replied: “The member must rely on private traders to satisfy his tastes.”

A line from the Gospels – “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” – was once much used by MPs. Debating parliamentary privilege in 1830, the Irish nationalist Daniel O’Connell hoped “it would not go forth to the public they had been two hours by the clock straining at a gnat, after so often swallowing, not only a camel, but a whole caravan of camels”.

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