In my opinion, one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century was Julius Henry Marx, or Groucho as he is better known.
It’s party conference season at the moment. Now a lot of silly things are said by politicians at party conferences, whatever the political party.
But this year’s Conservative Party conference has been a standout event which at times put me in mind of the shambolic, farcical nonsense so typical of a Marx brothers’ film.
So I have chosen to pick out a few of the more memorable moments using a few of Groucho’s quotes.
“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
You may have been unfortunate enough to have seen pictures of Priti Patel dancing with Nigel Farage at a conference fringe event. If you didn’t see the pictures, then I apologise for even conjuring up the image in your mind. #
Rishi ‘seven bins’ Sunak said he would welcome Mr Farage back into the Conservative Party. An invitation Nigel politely declined, as the Conservatives weren’t right-wing enough for him. Yet.
“Before I speak, I have something important to say.”
Therese Coffey, environment secretary, could have taken the opportunity of her speech at conference to address the problem of the discharge of raw sewage into our seas and waterways, but no. She had something more pressing on her mind.
Of far greater concern to voters was the bendy banana debate.
She re-assured delegates that rules regulating to the curvature of the yellow fruit will be dropped. “Bent or straight,” it is not for the government to decide “the shape of the bananas you eat”.
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
Transport secretary Mark Harper spoke from the main stage of ‘sinister’ 15-minute cities, a long-established town planning concept that aims to build communities where essential services are within walking distance.
Nothing really sinister here, unless you pay more than a healthy amount of time reading online conspiracy theories, which Mr Harper seems to do.
One of these claims is that 15-minute cities are a tool of population control, preventing people from leaving their homes. ‘Fifteen Minutes’ Mark not only seems to lend support to this idea, but to announce government policy to crack down on it.
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
Even Penny Mordaunt was getting in on the act. She made a strange and factually incorrect claim about First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford.
She said: “I don’t know about you, but I do not trust the leadership of Keir Starmer to be able to stand up to the iron fist, Why? Because he is not even capable of standing up to Mark Drakeford and his plans for an independent Wales. A 20mph independent Wales.”
Only, the First Minister of Wales isn’t a supporter of Welsh independence and he has repeatedly made his position clear. A source close to the First Minister commented: “Ms Mordaunt appears a little bit confused.”
“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Claire Coutinho, energy secretary, decided for reasons better known to herself to make a ‘joke’ in her speech.
“It’s no wonder Labour seems so relaxed about taxing meat. Sir Keir Starmer doesn’t eat it”
When challenged by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, who pointed out Labour have no such plans to tax meat, she tried to change the subject to bring up the ULEZ charges, conveniently forgetting the charge was first brought in by Boris Johnson when mayor of London.
Clearly some work to go before she can sufficiently fake it.
There is a serious point to all this. As Steve Nowottny, editor of the online fact-checking site Full Fact observed, trust in politics is “consistently low”.
“We expect our elected officials to be able to back up any claims they make, and it is worrying that this year we have seen a trend emerge in which politicians from all sides of the political debate have made claims about policies or initiatives without putting them into context or making sure the statements they make are supported by evidence,” he said.
None of which would have been a surprise to Groucho.