LDVideo | George Osborne’s GQ award embarrassment: when political jokes go bad (and when they go right)

by Stephen Tall on September 10, 2011

The Chancellor George Osborne has been left red-faced by his controversially potty-mouthed acceptance speech at the GQ awards when picking up a gong.

His references to the magazine’s adult content, and use of the word ‘wankers’, has attracted widespread criticism for crudeness, and conduct unbecoming the dignity of his office — even his usual supporters in the Tory party, such as ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie, have turned on Mr O. See what you think here:


(Available on YouTube here.)

One of the most thoughtful and most harsh condemnations of George Osborne comes from the Telegraph’s Damien Thompson, who connects the Chancellor’s vulgarity with that of David Cameron’s treatment of Nadine Dorries in the House of Commons this week:

… at PMQs [Ms Dorries] asked Mr Cameron a potentially deadly question about his tactical surrenders to the Lib Dems. The PM replied: “I know you are frustrated…” and the House fell about laughing. Cameron hadn’t intended the sexual innuendo, but he picked up on it instantly and we were treated to one of his oily chortles. Nadine was properly humiliated.

Sexism? Perhaps. But I suspect Cameron would have displayed better manners if the questioner had been a sophisticated young lady from a think tank rather than an ex-nurse with flat vowels. …

There’s a subliminal nastiness there and it’s bound up with class. This isn’t to say that posh people are uniquely nasty: every social group has its own brand of cruelty. But it doesn’t reflect well on the PM and Chancellor that they both resort to their own variety so readily.

Hang on, you may say – Osborne’s joke was just a smutty gag that misfired. He was like a best man at a wedding, desperately ploughing ahead with a speech that should have been delivered at the stag night rather than the reception. Actually, it was more than that: this was a deliberate, if badly calculated, insult. The Chancellor began by saying that he wasn’t sure who read GQ’s political pages and that he assumed they were the only ones that weren’t stuck together. And it got worse from there. The point is that, even though he failed dismally, Osborne was attempting to extract a cheap snigger at the expense of his hosts. Dave would understand what he was trying to do. GQ? Vulgar. Good for a laugh. Nadine? Ditto.

I suspect this will be the last time in a while George attempts a gag: next time he’d be better off wearing it instead.

But not all political jokes misfire. So as an antidote to the Chancellor’s sordid sortie, here’s my pick of three of the best…

First, we have Margaret Thatcher mocking the Lib Dems’ newly unveiled ‘bird of freedom’ logo (affectionately known in party circles as ‘libby’). However, the tickled ranks of Tory party conference delegates in 1990 were laughing on the other side of their faces when just a few weeks later David Bellotti scored a famous by-election win at Eastbourne, proving there was nothing ex about this parrot…


(Also available on YouTube here.)

Ronald Reagan was a past master of the adroit, well-timed quip which could defuse even the trickiest situations and toughest of audiences. Here he is putting the issue of his age to rest:


(Also available on YouTube here.)

Okay, so that’s a Tory and a Republican. Something tells me I should include a Lib Dem. Take it away, Vince


(Also available on YouTube here.)