Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Britain’s 10 most outrageous Chancellors


The Times Online has a interesting list of Britain's 10 most outrageous chancellors. Apparently this distinguished cadre of ministers includes people who have contracted gonorrhea, "rescued" prostitutes, and one witty chancellor who once said:

An after-dinner speech should be like a lady's dress - long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be interesting

Here are a few excerpts but check out the list and you'll learn something about British history.

William Gladstone

Famously known as the GOM (Grand Old Man – or God’s Only Mistake, according to rival politician Benjamin Disraeli), Gladstone’s most infamous pastime was the rescue and rehabilitation of London prostitutes.

A staunch Christian, his “charitable” excursions involved walking the streets of London to encourage the prostitutes he encountered to change their ways. Sometimes he went to the women’s homes for talks long into the night... Quite what his wife made of this, who was mostly at Hawarden, their home in Wales, remains unclear.

As Darling battles with the abolition of the 10p rate of income tax, it may comfort him to know that Gladstone had similarly unsuccessful attempts at meddling with income tax – after unsuccessfully trying to abolish it, he ended up raising it because of the Crimean War.

George Ward Hunt

The vast George Ward Hunt arrived at the Commons in 1869 and opened the Budget box to find that he had left his speech at home. This is said to be the start of the tradition that, when a Chancellor leaves for the House of Commons on Budget Day, he shows the assembled crowd the box by holding it aloft.

At 21 stone(294 pounds), Hunt is the largest Chancellor on record. Disraeli had to reassure Queen Victoria before he was appointed that "he has the sagacity of the elephant as well as its form". However this proved to be a rather short sighted comment, as Hunt only lasted just six months in the job.

Denis Healey

Another Chancellor with famously bushy eyebrows, Healy’s outspokenness frequently got him into trouble. His left-wing ideology of increasing benefits for the poor famously led to him saying that he would "Tax the rich until they squealed".

Healey once got into a shouting match with rebel Labour backbenchers on the floor of the Commons during division; he later recalled, when asked if the exchange involved shouts of bastards and f***er, that “I questioned their parentage when they praised my virility…..”

In 1976 he attacked left-wing opponents of his policies as being "out of their tiny Chinese minds", meaning to imply that they were Maoist, but offending the Chinese community.

Times Online

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