Thursday, 4 March 2010

Michael Foot and the smashed watch trick

On the radio last night they played a great clip of Michael Foot in Parliament assualting Keith Joseph with typical wit and grace. He compares Keith Joseph (one of the hard men of the Thatcher cabinet at that time wandering the country in bewilderment at the industrial 'reorganisation' they had set off) to a magician he used to see in the theatre in Plymouth as a young man, who would obtain a watch from someone in the audience, carefully place it under a handkerchief and then smash it with a mallet. He would then look completely puzzled and announce he had forgotten the second half of the trick...

This made me think two things. Firstly, how the genuine the 'laugh' is when it comes, from the other MPs, and how different that is to today's yahboo behaviour in the house - although there are one or two genuine wits left, notably William Hague, perhaps surprisingly, in themain the barracking and pantomime behaviour would get MPs excluded from any decent comprehensive. Secondly, and more importantly, how relevant the story is today. As all parties try and sound both tough and magical about cuts, hearing Michael Foot's elegant scorn illuminate the real issue, I couldn't help wonder whether the second half of the trick is any better known thirty years on. If it is isn't, only those with the money to buy new watches will be laughing.

(You can hear the clip 55 minutes into the programme here for the next few days.)

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