A better class of insult

In his Times column on October 24, Matthew Parris praised Disraeli’s repertoire of insults under the headline: “Our verbally abusive MPs have nothing on Disraeli”. He illustrated this entirely accurate comment with a well-known jibe that Disraeli never actually made: “if Gladstone fell into the Thames that would be a misfortune. If anyone pulled him out, that would be a calamity.”  Alistair Lexden gave a real example of Disraeli’s invective in a letter published in the paper on October 26.

Sir, It is a pity that Matthew Parris cited the obviously light-hearted Wildean comment that Disraeli made about Gladstone and the Thames, which I believe is apocryphal (Notebook, Oct.24). 

What he really said about his contemporaries was much worse. When Lord Aberdeen was prime minister in the 1850s, Disraeli cheerfully disparaged “his hesitating speech, his contracted sympathies, his sneer, icy as Siberia, his sarcasms, drear and barren as the Steppes”.

We need insults with that kind of class today.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords