“Right. Got to sort out Brexit. Go on the radio to avoid questions about it and all that. But first of all, let me work out where I’m going to put the ottoman and the baby grand. Actually, maybe I’ll keep them in one of my other properties and leave a gap in my brand new one for a bit, just to get a feel for the place. See where everything will fit in after I’ve grown familiar with the space. Bit of pre-feng shui,” mused the Chancellor. “What?”
These were Philip Hammond’s precise words on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. OK, I’ve paraphrased. It was a pouffe, not an ottoman. But anyway, he seemed to believe that the metaphor for Brexit we would most relate to is the idea of buying a second, or another, home.
“When you buy a house, you don’t necessarily move all your furniture in on the first day that you buy it,” he reasoned with the presenter.
Which, of course, you do. If you’re a normal person. Because you’ve moved out of your former place. Where else is your furniture going to go?
Rightly, the Chancellor has been mocked for his inadvertent admission that he either has an obscene amount of furniture, or real estate.
Props to the moving firms who’ve convinced Hammond pieces of furniture must be moved one at a time, over a period of weeks https://t.co/0MKBWLqwaj
— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) June 22, 2017
Presumably because Hammond has a shit-ton of furniture and multiple houses in which to store it…. https://t.co/LiITWBxDn4
— Dr Owain Connors (@OwainConnors) June 22, 2017
That’s cos people like Hammond have several houses to store furniture while the builders do up the house
— Darren Powell (@DarrenP76581369) June 22, 2017
#r4today Hammond – you don’t move all furniture the day you move. Eh? Those of us with one house do!! Out of touch!!
— Jeremy Henderson (@jeremyrh) June 22, 2017
Hammond no idea about buying a house! Thinks we can afford storage! “You don’t move all our furniture in in one go” YES YOU DO! #radio4
— nano8ight (@Nano7even) June 22, 2017
You don’t generally move all your furniture in one go when you move house, says Hammond #r4today You do if you’ve only got one house mate.
— Paul Treloar (@PaulieTandoori) June 22, 2017
But Hammond is not alone. Terrible political analogies – particularly household metaphors – are a proud Tory tradition that go back a long way in the party’s history.
Here are some of the best (worst) ones:
David Cameron’s Shredded Wheat
When Prime Minister, David Cameron tried to explain why he wouldn’t stand for a third term with a cereal metaphor. “Terms are like Shredded Wheat. Two are wonderful, but three might just be too many.”
It’s a reference to an old advertising slogan for the breakfast staple, when it came in big blocks rather than today’s bite-sized chunks. It turned into a bit of a class thing, when it emerged that Shredded Wheat had been served in Eton’s breakfast hall when Cameron was a schoolboy.
Boris Johnson’s loose rugby ball
When asked if he wants to be Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said “no” the only way he knows how – by saying “yes” via a rugby metaphor:
“If the ball came loose from the back of the scrum, which it won’t of course, it would be a great, great thing to have a crack at.”
George Osborne’s credit card
In a number of terrible household analogies to justify brutal cuts to public services, the then chancellor compared the budget deficit to a credit card: “The longer you leave it, the worse it gets.” Which, uh, doesn’t really work when the British government can print its own money, increase its own revenue anytime by raising taxes, and rack up debt with positive effects on growth and investment. A bit different from ordinary voters with ordinary credit cards. But then maybe Osborne doesn’t have an ordinary credit card…
Michael Gove’s Nazis
In the run-up to the EU referendum, the Brexiteer and then Justice Secretary Michael Gove compared economic experts to Nazis:
“Albert Einstein during the 1930s was denounced by the German authorities for being wrong and his theories were denounced, and one of the reasons of course he was denounced was because he was Jewish.
“They got 100 German scientists in the pay of the government to say that he was wrong and Einstein said: ‘Look, if I was wrong, one would have been enough’.”
Gove had to apologise for this wholly inappropriate comparison in the end.
Iain Duncan Smith’s slave trade
Another terrible historical evocation – the former Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith compared the Tories’ “historic mission” to reform welfare and help claimants “break free” to the work of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce:
“As Conservatives, that is part of our party’s historic mission. Just look at Wilberforce and Shaftesbury: to put hope back where it has gone, to give people from chaotic lives security through hard work, helping families improve the quality of their own lives.”
Boris Johnson’s Titanic
A rather oxymoronic use of the adjective “titanic” from Johnson, when he was discussing the UK leaving the EU: “Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a titanic success of it.”
I prefer the more literal reading of this from Osborne, who was present when Johnson made the remark: “It sank.”