Sword out amid Cutting Words; the Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (Oxford University Press, Pounds 18.99). Edited by Antony Jay. Reviewed by Ross Reyburn
Byline: Ross Reyburn
Whether Prime Minister Tony Blair or Conservative leader William Hague would approve is debatable but Antony Jay has updated the original Oxford Dictionary of Quotations first published in 1996.
Blair's oft-quoted tribute to Diana, the Princess of Wales - 'She was the People's Princess' - no doubt remains a source of pride. And his 1999 remark 'In future, welfare will be a hand up not a hand-out' is a neat example of the New Labour soundbite factory in full swing.
However, the other quotes by his name in the second edition somewhat dispel his image as a politician of integrity. His arrival statement in Belfast in 1998 - 'This is not a time for soundbites. We've left them at home. I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders' - sounded suspiciously like a soundbite in itself. And last year's leaked memorandum, in which he wanted to be 'personally associated as much as possible' with two or three eye-catching initiatives, put him firmly in the manipulative politician category.
But this did not match Hague's mind-numbing 1990 blunder when he ignored a dubious past to say of Jeffrey Archer: 'This is a candidate of probity and integrity. I am going to back him to the full.'
Jay's view is that profundity has slunk out of the political arena in the television age. As you might expect in a publication edited by the man who co-wrote the masterful television comedy series, Yes Minister, the dictionary has much that is amusing.
That most charismatic of US presidents, John F Kennedy, showed how humour can nullify a risky situation when he memorably claimed his father had urged him: 'Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. …