Friday, August 11, 2006

Greatest Political Gaffes

I've been asked to write a piece on great political gaffes, following Dr Ian Gibson's in-breeding comments. I don't just want to rehearse the usual hackneyed examples of politicians putting their feet in their mouths and want to restrict it to examples of occasions when politicians have insulted their country, their hosts, their constituents or their opponents and then been forced to apologise. I've got a whole bookshelf of books to go through (half of them Australian!) but should you, dear readers, have any great examples which I might not think of, do put them in the comments section.

26 comments:

media scum said...

There was the famous, but i guess totally apocryphal, story of Churchill who,being badgered by a female constituent, scribbled on one her letters a note to his secretary to tell 'horseface' that he couldn't help her any more. The letter then opened with 'Dear Mrs Horseface.........

I have also been told that Tony Banks was very good at upsetting constituents as well as - if not better than - huntsmen

wil e' licker said...

The loony Banks quit his job 'cos he was 'Fed up with constituents complaints'.

Silly bollox Bliar then eulogised him as a 'True man of the people'.

Not wot your looking for but......

David Boothroyd said...

Deliberate insulting of constituents (as practiced famously by John Carlisle when MP for Luton) should be disbarred.

Edwina Currie referred to Dennis Skinner as "Derbyshire born and Derbyshire bred, Strong in the arm and thick in the head" momentarily forgetting her own constituency was South Derbyshire.

The 'horseface' story doesn't have the ring of truth to me - sounds like it was made up.

Chris Palmer said...

Boris Johnson in Liverpool springs to mind.

Rigger Mortice said...

when reagan landed and said

'it's great to be here in Nicaragua' and he was somewhere completely different.

Might not have been Nicaragua but he definitely got the country wrong

Anonymous said...

http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/footinmouth.html

This is about the lack of 'plain English rather than doing a 'Ratner'. But may give a light hearted introduction..

Anonymous said...

QUOTATION: A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.

ATTRIBUTION: Michael Kinsley (b. 1951), U.S. journalist. Guardian (London, Jan. 14, 1992).

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Does this include occasions where they've said something which demonstrates them to be clearly lying through their teeth?

I'll nominate Princess Tony's 'sat behind the goals' moment when he said he was sat somewhere that didn't exist.

Anonymous said...

http://paullinford.blogspot.com/2006/03/my-top-10-political-gaffes.html

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1542325,00.html

And linked to that I suppose is the famous Oliver Letwin £ 20 bn tax cut comment that sent him into hiding.

And let's not forget hideous Ann Winterton's 'joke' - although not sure whether she ever said sorry.

Andrew Kennedy said...

Sorry Media Scum, as great as it is, I think the "horseface" story is an urban myth - I have heard the same story attributed to Gerald Nabarro and Geoffrey Dickens.

For me, the two biggest gaffes have been from the Bush family.

The first President Bush had food poisoning and vomited over the President of Japan (on live TV).

The worst, however, came 12 years later when GW was holding a press conference following a HoG Conference in South Asia. During the press conference he made some comment about an American proposal, adding "and I am pleased to say the Indians and the Pakis agree with me."

Finally, there is the case Philip Smythe, the former leader of the New South Wales Liberal/National Party Coalition, who was flying into Auckland for some antipodean political conference. Just after the cabin crew had announced "please put your watches back 1 hour" he added (loudly) "and your minds back 20 years". He was not aware that the editor of the NZ Herald (I think) was sitting directly behind and promptly reported the gaffe on the following day's front page.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a copy of Alan Clark's Diaries but from his 'Bongo Bongo land' comment to calling King Hussein an 'oily little runt' he doesn't disappoint.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Not particularly a gaffe - but who was it (Patricia Hewitt) who said something along the lines of spring conference and the sea air - though it had been in Harrogate!

Anonymous said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/ukresponse/story/0,11017,605213,00.html

I'd forgotten what a generous source of gaffes Clare Short once was. Wasn't it her who referred to a poor volcano-hit island as being the recipient of golden elephants?

Mm..the old grey cells are starting to seize up here..

Paul Linford said...

I did a Top 10 on it a while back, which is still on my blog if you want to take a look.

Anonymous said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/05/13/nshort113.xml

Iain - Don't say it, I know that the problem with these is that whilst entertaining, many relate to politicians too shameless to find them embarrassing enough to require any form of apology...

And who was the Tory 'Gaffer' chairman - I can see him - he had wavy hair, but I'm damned if I can remember his name - any ideas?

Anonymous said...

"the green belt is a Labour achievement, and we mean to build on it" - sorry, but Prezza was going to put in an appearance, sooner or later...

Anonymous said...

James Callaghan's 'Crisis? What Crisis? in 1979. Although apprently he did not use those words, his airport interview on return from an overseas summit did not set a helpful tone!
Callaghan again: his speech to the '78 Labour Conference - "there was I waiting at the church" - had he gone to the country in '78 there was a chance the Conservatives would not have been elected with a majority.
An obvious one: 'The Pound in your pocket' - H. Wilson.
Nicholas Ridley's Spectator interview: the EM thingy "a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe". And his 'bow doors left open' comment.
John Gummer and THAT burger.
The 75p 'bag of peanuts' pension increase.
George Galloway and the leotard/cat impression/just being George Galloway.
David Steel: "go back to your constituencies - and prepare for government!". OK, only with hindsight.
Kenny Everett's appearance at a Conservative election event: 'let's bomb Russia'.
Labour's 1983 Manifesto (and campaign): 'the longest suicide note in history'.
Kinnock's '92 Sheffield Rally -'Alright!Alright!
John Smith's '92 Alternative Budget and the 'Tax Bombshell'?
Michael Foot and that overcoat at the Cenotaph.
Umm - I do need to get out more...

Verity said...

The time Jimmy Carter - yes, dear reader, it was he! - on a state visit to Mexico,in an official speech apologised for looking a bit pale but said he'd been suffering from Montezuma's revenge.

The Mexicans received this with faces of stone.

Anonymous said...

Me again: Norman Lamont! Green Shoots; je ne regret; singing in the bath, etc.

Anonymous said...

The first President George Bush once said that, since he was now the most powerful man in the world, he wouldn't be eating any more broccoli because he didn't like it. America's broccoli growers rose up as one to protest...

Anonymous said...

Some more...

1 John Major and the cabinet "bastards" incident

2 Northern Ireland sec Peter Brooke sings Oh My Darling Clementine on TV after eight builders are killed by the IRA

3 Anything Dan Quayle did (tells Latin America that he never studied Latin, potatos etc)

4 Chancellor Hugh Dalton forced to resign after leaking details of his budget to a journalist while on the way to the Commons

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether or not the 'horseface' story is an urban myth, but I do know that Michael Portillo used it as an anecdote in an after-dinner speech in Dublin last year. Nothing strange about that, you might think, except that he claimed it had happened to him...

Richard Bailey said...

Come come everyone.
Become a medical practitioner of any sort. Visit a Norfolk surgery or clinic. See the repeated entry 'NFN'. Ask the nurse what it means. All is revealed.
The good Doctor Gibson simply said outloud what others have been saying in code for many years!!

Ed said...

Mark Latham during his tenure as leader and ALP frontbencher made a number of gaffes if you don't mind looking at Australian examples. He referred to a disabled Liberal party member as "that deformed creature" and "deformed in every way". Latham turned on the Queen Mother shortly after her death describing her as lazy and indolent and described John Howard as an "arse licker". During Parliamentary debates he called the Cabinet “a conga line of suckholes” (he did have a fascination with anilingus) and said a leading female journo was a “skanky ho” who would “die in a ditch” for the Liberals.

Not a terribly nice guy, although it was great when he finally exploded.

Vienna Woods said...

Although many years ago and a minor town council labour politician on Birkenhead Town Council, but Mick Haggerty remains my favourite "gaffer" of all time.

It was proposed to put a Gondola on Birkenhead park lake as a summer attraction. Haggerty's contribution:

"Why don't we buy two and breed them"

Anonymous said...

GW Bush: "The trouble with the French is that they don't have a word for 'entrepreneur'."

Oh dear...