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Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Top 50 Political Quotations of All Time
For a future issue of TOTAL POLITICS we're compiling a feature of the TOP 50 POLITICAL QUOTATIONS OF ALL TIME. If you'd like to submit nominations, leave them in the comments and we'll add them to our already growing list. And while you're at it, we're building a huge database of political quotations HERE on the Total Politics website. It's only 1600 strong at the moment, but we're soon going to be adding hundreds more.
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I have to suggest Tony Crosland's 'the party is over'. If only because those were so obviously the words the Chancellor was looking for yesterday.
Macmillan's "Events, my dear boy, Events" quote, of course.
The recent one's that spring to mind
Lamont - "Non, je ne regrette rien"
Thatcher - "This ladies not for turning."
Steel - "Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for Government!"
Brown - "No more boom or Bust"
Blair - "Education, Education, Education"
Brown and Blair were caught out as over estimating their competence before the fact, whilst Thatcher and Lamont were simply arrogant after the fact.
I can think of two which are fairly apt:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"
John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves"
Here's one gratis.
The reason Mill called the Conservatives the Stupid Party was because the Labour Party did not yet exist.
Polish politician -
Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. With communism, it's the other way around.
Kinnocks "We're alright...." Lovely stuff
Some from my collection - some more philosophical than political:
Edmund Burke (1729-97)
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
Titus Lucretius Carus (c.99-55 BC)
Fear is the Mother of all Gods
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last.
No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.
If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.
[to Neville Chamberlain] You were given the choice between war and dishonour ... you chose dishonour and you will have war.
Much religious zealotry is, in effect, disappointed and embittered materialism.
Where bureaucracies are concerned, nothing succeeds like failure
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small.
If you pay people to be poor, you will never run out of poor people.
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.
Evil unchecked grows. Evil tolerated poisons the whole system
Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
You sleep safe in your beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do you harm.
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.
George S. Patton (1885-1945)
The biggest enemy of freedom is a happy slave
John Prescott (1938- )
If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that everyone wants to go there.
the difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time
King Solomon (Proverbs 13:24)
He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
harold Wilson is alleged to have said
"A week is a long time in politics"
He also said
"It does not mean that the pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued."
So Wilson can really be said to have invented the 'Brownie' - I think this counts for something and should really put him up there with the tops of all time.
If we're talking American ...
Clinton - "It's the economy, stupid"
Clinton - "I did not have sexual relations"
George HW Bush - "Read my lips: no new taxes"
"Here I am leading that process for the last couple of months and – whoops a daisy – I am shown up to have made a mistake. OK, hands up, mea culpa, and I will put it right.”
Giles Chichester MEP
"The fact that Gordon Brown has escaped Iraq unscathed only reinforces our opinion that the weapons issued to British forces fighting in Iraq are not fit for purpose."
"Given our monstrous, overgrown government structure, any three letters chosen at random would probably designate an agency or part of a department that could be profitably abolished."
How about the alleged quote of the Permanent Secretary to the Department of Environment, transport and the Regions Sir Richard Mottram to Stephen Byers after Jo Moore's
"good day to bury bad news" gaffe in 2001? "We're all fkcued. I'm fckued. You're fkuced. The whole department is fukced. It's the biggest ccko-up ever and we're all completely fkcued." Not the best example of Civil Service brevity.
Joseph Göbbels: "Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg?"
Dom Helder Camara: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."
Cato the Elder: "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse."
Kinnock's "We know that power without principle is ruthless and vicious and we know that principle without power is useless" - in fact the whole of his October 1985 speech is something special ("Impossible policies start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma and go through the years outdated, misplaced and irelevant to the real needs of our people. You end up with the grotesque chaos of a Labour council hiring taxis to scuttle around the city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers." - great stuff.
He may have been useless at most stuff, including getting elected. But that speech provided the impetus to nail the trots that had been destroying Labour, and - ultimately - paved the way for Labour's election victory 12 years later.
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. ... Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Tacitus: "The more laws a state has, the more corrupt the state"
Prescottballs are the best.
Oh fogot these
Healy - "When you're in a hole, stop digging"
Keynes (ok he's an econmist) "In the long run, we're all dead."
Wilson - A week is a long time in politics
Callaghan - What crisis?
It's funny how most PM's and chancellors can be summarised in a single quote.
The list must surely include, "A week is a long time in politics," usually attributed to Harold Wilson (1916-1995, though precisely when he dropped this gem is unclear. One website notes its use in 'Sayings of the century, "Prime Ministers: A Word from No. 10,” Nigel Rees (1984). When asked by Rees in 1977, Wilson was unable to remember when or even if he had uttered this dictum always associated with him. Rees suggests the words were probably said in 1964 shortly after Wilson became prime minister. A journalist recalled Wilson saying, “Forty-eight hours is a long time in politics” at a party conference in 1960.'
Please take your pick from the following;
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.
If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-a tremendous whack.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.
If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
Col Tim Collins
If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.
This lady is not for turning.
and the best
Never in the field of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few.
Winston Churchill (again)
"Don't just do something, stand there" - Ronald Reagan on the proper role of government
"All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs."
Trevor (Jones the Vote) Jones on Liberal policy for by-elections: "If you can't give them a fight, give them a show!"
Lloyd Bentsen's put down of Dan Quayle, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy", in 1988 vice presidential debate.
Bentsen: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Thatcher; "No! No! No!"
Iain - it might be too long as a quotation for these purposes but Denis Healy's v witty attack on John Major in the Commons, comparing him to Charlie Brown (and Mrs T to Lucy) is both funny and of its time. Full text avail @ Hansard
There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.
"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window - no, I don't feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would like to throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body." - Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead
How about the one from a defeated California State Senator; "The people have spoken! The bastards!"
Just a couple more that have sprung to mind. Apologis for the random nature;
Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.
"Mr. Churchill you're drunk!"
"And you, Lady Astor, are ugly. As for my condition, it will pass by the morning. You, however, will still be ugly."
Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.
Governments are typically more harmful than helpful and therefore cannot be justified. Democracy is no cure for this, as majorities simply by virtue of being majorities do not also gain the virtues of wisdom and justice.
Geoffrey Howe's "being savaged by a dead sheep" comes to mind.
These are all from Ronald Reagan;
Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!
The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.
The taxpayer - that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination.
Ken Clarke: 'Labour governments always run out of money'
'being economical with the truth'
can't remember the name of the very senior civil servant who said them at the peter wright trial in, i think, australia but certainly words to live by !
In terms of having an effect that has still to be worked through how about Vince Cable to Gordon Brown:
'In one week the The Prime Minister has gone from Stalin to Mr Bean'.
He can survive anything but ridicule - and that was the moment that his premiership actually ended - in office but not power from thereon forwards.
"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography"
Brown " I've only been in the job 5 days..."
Unknown Ulster Unionist
Vote early and vote often
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. (Churchill) Not an option likely to be available to G W Bush!
Si seulement je peut pisser comme Lloyd George parle.
(If only I could piss like Lloyd George speaks.)
At, I think, The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 when the old man was 77 and, presumably, having his problems.
P J O'Rourke
"When government controls buying and selling, the first thing that will be bought and sold will be politicians."
Juan de Mariana (1536-1624) warned of the consequences of state interference with market phenomena:
"Only a fool would try to separate these values in such a way that the legal price should differ from the natural. Foolish, nay, wicked the ruler who orders that a thing the common people value, let us say, at five should be sold for ten. Men are guided in this matter by common estimation founded on considerations of the quality of things, and their abundance or scarcity. It would be vain for a Prince to seek to undermine these principles of commerce. ’Tis best to leave them intact instead of assailing them by force to the public detriment."
T.S. Eliot, 1950
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
Ibn Khaldun – 14th century Muslim philosopher
“At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from small assessments … if the reader understands this, he will realise that the strongest incentive for cultural activity is to lower the amounts of individual imposts levied upon persons capable of undertaking cultural enterprises. Such persons will be psychologically disposed to undertake them, because they can be confident of making a profit from them.”
‘When they came for the smokers I kept silent because I don't smoke.
When they came for the meat eaters I kept silent because I'm a vegetarian.
When they came for the gun owners I kept silent because I'm a pacifist.
When they came for the drivers I kept silent because I'm a bicyclist.
They never did come for me.
I'm still here because there's nobody left in the secret police except sissies with rickets.’
‘The more immoral we become in big ways, the more puritanical we become in little ways.’
‘We worship education but hate learning.’
"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
"There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life."
"If, at age 18 a man is not a liberal, he has no heart. But if by age 30 he is not a conservative, he has no brain"
"Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries."
George Bernard Shaw
"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."
'The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.'
'The right to life is the source of all rights--and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.'
Berthold Brecht's view that as the people of East Germnany had let dfown the comunist ideal 'what was needed was a new population'
Almost anything by Mencken but my favourite is
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
I also like Mark Twain's
"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."
Or Robert Heinlein's
"Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."
A personal - and possibly topical - favourite from Macmillan to Rab Butler carrying a stack of papers.
HM: What are those?
HM: Oh, I beg you, not policies. They come back to haunt you. Give them broad sunlit uplands, dear boy.
seems that Cameron has taken this lesson to heart...
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are two cheeks of the same arse.
Donald Rumsfeld's words are beginning to sound wiser and wiser "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know"
The Prime Minister inhabits the realm of the unknown unknown.
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