New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

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The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

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Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”

The unwitting wit of the Irony Lady

By DAVID WOODING
STRAIT-laced Maggie Thatcher often had her staff in fits of laughter with saucy one-liners – without knowing why.
The three times PM, who died last week, was first to admit she wasn’t a natural wit and never quite grasped a double meaning.
Her dry sense of humour was a nightmare for speech writers who feared she might fluff the punchlines.
But some of her best and most hilarious gags were delivered unintentionally.
Her prim and proper upbringing led to a string of unwitting quips on the world stage which left her aides stifling their giggles.
Most famously, she once paid tribute to her loyal deputy Willie Whitelaw by remarking: “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.”
Clanger
On another occasion, she was puzzled when guests roared at her after-dinner speech as she described how a distinguished colleague had met his wife while “on the job”.
Troops were close to tears when she made  a flying visit to the Falkland Islands after the defeat of the invading Argentine army in 1982.
She was invited to sit in the range-finder’s seat astride a large piece of field artillery.
“Is it safe?” she asked her military hosts before adding innocently: “Or will it jerk me off?”
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Mrs Thatcher naively dropped a similar clanger while inspecting garden implements on a flying visit to a hardware shop in Fulham, south west London.
She picked up a large trowel and said: “I’ve never seen a tool as big as that before.”
A journalist recalled: “We all started sniggering and she gave us all disapproving looks, which made it even worse.”
Lady T was a stickler for buying British and tore into journalists who used Japanese tape recorders during interviews.
She even made them open their jackets to check whether their suits had come from Italy or Hong Kong – and would give offenders one of her infamous “hand-baggings”.
Shortly after moving into 10 Downing Street, she posed for pictures with her husband Denis. A brave reporter asked: “Who wears the trousers in this house?”
Quick as a flash, Denis replied: “I do. And I wash and iron them, too.”

The Iron Lady – it’s about so much more than just Thatcher

DAVID WOODING reviews the hot new political movie

THIS fascinating movie shows Britain’s most divisive political figure in a new light – as a real human being.

If you’re a nerd, fan or critic expecting a potted history of Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in power you’ll be disappointed.

This poignant film barely scratches the surface of the real-life dramas which shaped her Premiership. The Falklands War, the poll tax riots, the miners’ strike and the Brighton bomb are all a sub-plot to a rather sad but charming story about getting old.

It vividly depicts how giants of history are really just frail, ordinary people underneath. And Meryl Streep’s incredible portrayal of Mrs Thatcher achieves what the Tory icon often failed to do herself – by winning  our admiration, sympathy and respect.

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher

The Iron Lady is about so much more than the rise and fall of a legend.

It’s about the tragedy of old age, the struggle by women for equal rights and the rise to power of a grocer’s girl from Lincolnshire.

Thatcher’s amazing life is seen through the prism of an old lady struggling with dementia, mourning the loss of her husband Denis and having flashbacks to the days when she ran the country.

Tories have been swift to express their uneasiness with the subject matter while Lady Thatcher is still alive – and Labour tribalists baulk simply at the idea of a film about a woman whose legacy they detest.

But you must put the political ethics to one side and watch this as a piece of pure cinema. Forget the historical inaccuracies, too. Maggie never wore a hat in the Commons, she was not with Airey Neave in the car park when he was blown up and I’ve never before heard she barked “sink it!” when generals asked  what to do about the Belgrano.

Director Phyllida Lloyd certainly knows how to use artistic licence to great dramatic effect. She once produced a quirky version of Wagner’s Ring cycle at the ENO, in which the Rhinemaidens were mini-skirted, fishnet-stockinged, spiky-heeled pole dancers and the heroine Brunhilde became a suicide bomber. I was sceptical about that – but it worked. Lloyd’s idiosyncratic style works wonders in The Iron Lady, too.

Sadness

There’s also great use of music from  Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Bach to Bellini and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Shall We Dance?”

Meryl Streep’s portrayal spans 40 years and the flashbacks give a balanced picture of the woman – her determination, vision, weaknesses and failings – all in nugget-sized  episodes, rather than detailed analysis. The 90-minute film also takes us  back six decades to Thatcher’s childhood working during wartime in her father’s grocery shop.

The movie sends out a powerful message about the tragedy of dementia – and the sadness of loneliness endured by many in old age.

It may struggle to turn Thatcher’s critics into full-blown admirers. But if they’re honest with themselves, they’ll admit to feeling rather more warm towards her after seeing this.

At the very least, thousands more people will see Lady Thatcher for what she really is – a human being.