With the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats (the country’s third political party, whose internal contradictions would be enough to drive anyone to drink) in trouble over his problems with the bottle, Ben McIntyre of the London Times gives some helpful background on the role of alcohol in UK politics:
“Booze runs through the very veins of British politics. No democracy has been, over the years, so consistently pickled: William Pitt the Younger marinated himself daily with three bottles of port; Winston Churchill slurped through the war on a tidal wave of champagne and brandy. The very language of drinking has been framed by our elected representatives, such as “Squiffy” Asquith and George Brown, Labour’s famously blotto Foreign Secretary in the 1960s, for whom the phrase “tired and emotional” was coined.”
The whole article is well worth reading, but this is too good not to repeat here:
“I suspect that the most famous George Brown drinking anecdote of all immeasurably improved our diplomatic relations with Peru. At a grand reception in that country in the 1960s, the Labour Foreign Secretary tottered up to a figure resplendent in a fetching purple frock, and slurringly asked her for a dance. She turned him down with the response: “First, you are drunk. Second, this is not a waltz, it is the Peruvian national anthem. And third, I am not a woman, I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.”
And why am I not surprised by this?
“New Labour has brought a strange whiff of Puritanism from the likes of Alastair Campbell (teetotal), Peter Mandelson (who is known to sip hot water at dinner parties) and Tony Blair (just a cup of tea, thanks awfully).”
Time for a drink, I think.