Friday, November 16, 2007

The Top 10 Labour Twits

A week or so ago, Tara Hamilton-Miller in the New Statesman put together a list of the Top 10 Tory Twits. It was entertaining reading, though she unaccountably omitted both Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, who was once cut off mid-flight by Mr Deputy Speaker when attempting a graphic description of the homosexual act during a Commons debate, and Alan Clark who famously got his penis out in the hallway of his mistress's flat after feeling neglected during a party.

Surprisingly, no-one has yet put together a list of the Top 10 Labour twits, so I thought I would ask for nominations.

As Monty Python noted, it is hard to define what makes a really first-class twit. Political twittishness is essentially about more than mere rank bad judgement. Its essential ingredient is frivolity, not just in the sense of lack of seriousness but in the sense of failure to think about the consequences of one's actions.

To help kick start the debate, I have put together the following shortlist of ten, although all other suggestions will be gratefully received.

  • Anthony Wedgwood Benn, as he was then, for nearly wrecking the party for good during the 70s and 80s.

  • Clive Jenkins, for his continual meddling in leadership elections which invariably produced the wrong result.

  • Lord Longford, for his silly campaign in support of child killer Myra Hindley.

  • Chris Bryant, for practically every public utterance since he swapped vicarhood for politics.

  • Robert Kilroy-Silk, for declaring in the mid-80s that he would be Labour leader and PM within 10 years.

  • John Spellar, for saying "these cunts must be stopped" when he meant to say "cuts."

  • Tom Driberg, for numerous indiscreet sexual adventures from the 1930s to the 1970s.

  • David Winnick, for failing to acquire the slightest degree of gravitas despite nearly 40 years in the Commons.

  • George Brown, for throwing his toys out of his pram in 1968 and resigning while pissed.

  • Martin Salter, for thinking what a great idea it would be to get rid of his neighbouring Labour MP.

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  • 21 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    I think Benn (deservedly No 1 twit) had Tonified himself before then.

    I would add Peter Temple-Morris for polluting politics by getting elected as a Tory in 1997 and switching sides for no good reason soon afterwards.

    John Austin who has emerged from obscurity twice in his 15 years as an MP, once when he shortened his name and once when he appointed himself an unofficial fraternal delegate to Sinn Fein at a time when the provisonal IRA were still openly killing people.

    AndyW said...

    Hi Paul,

    How about John Prescott - the list's so long but how about for mocking Tory morals whilst having a horizontal dalliance of his own.

    Clare Short - for not joining Robin Cook over Iraq

    Replace the 'i' with an 'a' and Anthony Lynton Blair would come top of my list.

    Paul Linford said...

    Re Prescott and Short - it's a subtle distinction, but my view would be that they were both essenitally serious politicians who succeeded in making themselves look ridiculous, while the people on my list are essentially frivolous politicians who struggled to make themseleves look serious.

    Cassilis said...

    I may be many miles to his right but Benn a 'frivolous politician' Paul? A little unkind I'd say...

    Misguided perhaps but not frivolous...

    Bob Piper said...

    Yes, Tony Benn, what a twit. Fancy expecting MPs to submit themselves for re-selection, or being stupid enough to seek to democratise the secret service that constituted the 'Old Labour' status quo, being delusional enough to by want to give the trade unions and party members a say in the selection of the Party Leader. Bloody twit.

    Looking at the wreck that is Iraq, Hutton, membership falling through the basement, a set of economic policies that the dozy old duffer Roy Jenkins would have been proud of, Benn must wonder why he wasted his energy on the shambolic shower.

    I suspect The Sun would join together with you in that sentiment. Why am I not surprised?

    septicisle. said...

    I think Longford might have been naive in his campaign for Myra Hindley, but I don't think it was foolish; rather principled. Did she deserve to die in prison? I don't personally think so. His opposition to pornography and to gay rights was far less salubrious.

    David Boothroyd said...

    Wouldn't have said Driberg was a 'twit' for his life of gay abandon; I consider that his one redeeming defect. Oh, and Spellar was trying to say "these cuts have gone too far" - the Hansard is here.

    How could you miss out George Foulkes?

    Paul Linford said...

    Tony Benn frivolous? Yes, in the sense that he must have realised that the consequences of his actions would render Labour unelectable, yet still pressed on regardless; in the sense that ideological purity was more important to him than being in a position to improve the lot of working people. I think this is probably as about as frivolous as you can get as a politician, actually.

    What made it worse was that he was an upper-class radical who came close to destroying a working-class party. If it wasn't for the fact that the Stansgates were good liberals, I would have been tempted to believe the old conspiracy theory that Benn was a Tory incubus secreted into the Labour Party in order to wreck it.

    He was right about Iraq, though. I'll give him that.

    jane said...

    Paul is right about what constitutes a twit in this sense - someone who is a bit stupid, a bit frivolous and who generally lacks judgment, but wants to be considered a serious politician and sooner or later gets found out, if only by history.

    Anonymous said...

    So glad to see Salter in the list. Also glad he is at the bottom to reflect his unimportance. Two examples of his twitishness, claiming to have voted against the Iraq War - did vote for the so-called rebel amendment but on the Government motion to send British troops to war abstained, thereby doing as he was asked by the Whips and not actually voting against the war when there was a chance of defeating the Government. Secondly, anyone in Westminster who notices him will see him brown nosing Government Ministers desperate for a job - just ask Alan Meale how he offered to dob in colleagues to John Prescott - whilst in Reading he acts the rebel.

    rupahuq said...

    David Owen for being overpromoted too young, mucking up the Labour party with his gang of 4 acolytes and then being too big-headed to join the LibDems when the game was up.Pedictible moi?

    Politaholic said...

    Having to resign from the Cabinet twice is a bit twittish: Mandelson and Blunkett. But I guess both are serious politicians acting (unbelievably) twittish...Still...

    JRD168 said...

    I disagree with you on Benn I'm afraid. He's been proved correct in several areas, was an "esentially serious politician" holding senior positions in government. I prefer my politicians to have some beliefs that they stick by. Benn's arguments for socialism and democracy still ring true.

    We were right said...

    Yeah Salter and his boys got the results of their twitishness last May when they lost seven seat - six in Reading East and two that the Tories won had not been won by them in living memory. It shows the difference an MP with a staffed office campaigning in their constituency can make to the local election results Labour will not have a majority in Reading after May.

    RedEye said...

    Tony Benn didn't want a 'say' for ordinary trade unionists or party members, he wanted the 'say' restricted to trade union leaders and activists (GC members).

    Back to twits - John McDonnell for saluting PIRA's 'armed struggle', and Diane Abbot for her hypocrisy over private education.

    Paul Linford said...

    Rupa

    David Owen wasn't a twit, but he was something that rhymed with it.

    Anonymous said...

    Agree with your view about David Owen. Why is it that Salter and his gang were so keen to have a Tory in Reading East, as anyone who knew the place understood would happen in such a marginal seat after such an activity?

    Reading Man said...

    We were so disappointed in Slater. He went into the House with so much, just look at Roth regarding his maiden - hardly a New Labour creature. It's a shame he has not done more in the House and as an MP, wonder what the point of him is really.

    G Eagle Esq said...

    I flatter myself that Paul & I agree on so many things, but I prefer to define a "twit" as a "badly-judging nit-wit"

    Surely a place in Paul's List should be kept for Shirley Williams (heroine of the Grunwick Picket Line, Destroyer without a moment's self-doubt of the best Grammar School in Inglaterra etc)

    Richard said...

    It wasn't just the grammar schools that Williams abolished, but the direct grant schools as well, an outstanding act of spite, and one of the worst policies implemented by any post-war government.

    Stephen Rouse said...

    Williams actually abolished fewer grammar schools than a certain other female education secretary...