1 July 2009
[twitter] OMG: Tweeting parliament … Simon Hoggart Twitters From Parliament … ‘15.00 Go to toilet myself. Ignore sign reading “peers only”.’
27 October 2006
[politics] Sketch The Naked Truth of a Leader at Bay — another sketch from Simon Hoggart watching Tony Blair at Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday … ‘Claire Curtis-Thomas, Labour MP for Crosby, said to Mr Blair, “you will be aware that at this precise moment I have one hundred rather attractive naked men outside my front door.” I wish I could have bottled the look on his face. It was the mien of one who has no idea how he is supposed to react. Shock? Bafflement? Good humour? What bothered him was the fact that he had no idea where the question was going; there was nothing in his fat fact file that could possibly help…’
27 September 2006
[politics] I’m right, you’re wrong, and the voters know it… — Simon Hoggart on Tony Blair’s last speech at the Labour Conference … ‘The organisers tried to whip up a frenzy which was almost, but not quite there. Before he arrived there was a “spontaneous” demonstration in which members of the audience held up hand-written posters: “We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah”, “Too young to retire” and simply “Thank you”. It was like waiting for a very cuddly version of Stalin. We saw a video in which ordinary folk and celebrities gave thanks for the existence of Blair. One old lady said: “I’m grateful for the £200 fuel allowance – it’s better than a woolly hat.” And they claim the British have a poverty of ambition! Then he arrived…’
25 March 2006
[politics] Nutkin and the Nobles — Simon Hoggart visits the House of Lords as they discuss Squirrels‘Lord Redesdale was one of the few peers to have even one kindly word for the “predatory” [grey squirrel]. They were friendly little animals, he said, and would eat crisps out of your hand. In Regent’s Park, “a grey squirrel climbed up my trouser leg to look into my pocket”. I can remember when politicians of all parties used to pay guardsmen a shiny half-crown to perform that service. Now, in these more censorious days, they’re reduced to furry rodents.’
18 January 2006
[politics] Day 13 … and Things aren’t going to Plan in the House — Simon Hoggart on George Galloway‘Take the scenes last week when he pretended to be a cat, licking imaginary cream from the cupped hands of Rula Lenska, while she murmured to him “here pussy, pussy, pussy, yes, ooh, little pussy … you’ve got cream all over your whiskers!” (In the words of the old Grolsch lager ad, “Stop! This porno film is not ready yet!”) You can be sure that episode will never be forgotten, and every time Mr Galloway rises to repeat his grand denunciation of George Bush and Tony Blair, he will be met with a chorus of miaows.’
19 October 2005
[politics] Suits Them, Sir — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership Election … ‘It was one o’clock and the voting was due to begin. Four Tories were hovering outside, like boarders waiting for the dining room to open. “There should be a numeracy test,” said Ann Widdecombe crisply. “If you can read an opinion poll, why are you voting for anyone except Ken Clarke?” “Ann and I have a lot in common,” said John Bercow, once a rightwinger, now a social moderate. “We support Ken Clarke, we like spaghetti bolognese, and we are choppers, not twirlers!” I thought this must be some terrifying euphemism, but it turned out to mean the way they ate their spaghetti.’
12 July 2005
[politics] Simon Hoggart: ‘Parliament was united against a common enemy yesterday, an enemy that will stop at nothing, that has only contempt for our way of life, and is utterly indifferent to our loathing. But as well as attacking George Galloway, MPs also had harsh words for the London bombers.’
29 April 2005
[election] In the Eye of the Storm, it’s Blinking Tricky — Simon Hoggart watching Tony Blair and Gordon Brown: ‘[Nick Robinson of ITN] asked “Are you saying that you would have behaved in an identical way to Tony Blair if faced with the same circumstances?” There was a pause which might have lasted two seconds, but seemed to go on forever. [Tony Blair’s] right eye turned to stare malevolently at Mr Brown, like some Oriental jewel that has the power to turn men’s minds. The eyebrow above it arched in a V-shape. Finally the chancellor spoke, or rather barked: “Yes!” The right eye suddenly relaxed and even seemed, just for a moment, to gaze fondly on Mr Brown. Applause broke out from the businesspersons. “Well done!” said Patricia Hewitt, sounding, as always, like a doctor congratulating a small child on surviving a jab without crying.’
14 March 2005
[politics] On David Blunkett and Simon Hoggart: ‘…did Blunkett tell Jim Naughtie on the Today show, whilst talking about the British sense of humour, “I even used to like the News Quiz, but I can’t listen to it any more. Jim Naughtie almost choked, “I think we will leave that one right there” was all he could say. The presenter of the humourous News Quiz show is of course Simon Hoggart…’
21 December 2004
[politics] Farmer Clarke makes himself at Home — Simon Hoggart on Charles Clarke and David Blunkett … ‘At one point Mr Clarke referred to his predecessor, whom, he said, he was delighted to see in his place. There was a cheer from Labour MPs. Mr Blunkett was sitting three rows back, looking pretty miserable but surrounded by loyal and supportive friends. I can relate to that.’
25 November 2004
[politics] Impeach Tony Blair? Not this Crazy Gang — Simon Hoggart on the attempt to impeach Tony Blair … ‘Some of us had gone along in the hopes of hearing Harold Pinter, a keen supporter of the move to impeach the prime minister. Perhaps he would read one of his poems: “‘ Bombs hurtle down. They split open the skulls of babies. George Bush fills the skulls with shit, the shit of shitty shit-covered damnation’. Thank you.” Or words to that effect. Sadly, Mr Pinter was not able to attend…’
9 June 2004
[venus] A piece of History Passes By and 350 years on the Sun Shines for Jeremiah the Genius — Simon Hoggart spent yesterday up a Hill in Lancashire with 92 astronomers as the Transit of Venus happened …

‘…it is the unity between our own past and the immensity of the universe which is skin-tingling. Just after the last transit, in 1882, Robert Ball wrote: “The next time people will see it is when the flowers are in bloom, in June 2004.” It was good to be there with the flowers.’

20 May 2004
[politics] Purple Cloud Colours A Perfect Metaphor — Simon Hoggart on yesterday’s events in Parliement …

‘Yes, I was there when the cloud of death swirled round the prime minister. Heavens, we were scared. One or two of us actually left the Chamber, humming loudly to ourselves so as to sound relaxed. If it had been anthrax, or ricin, or sarin, or even blackcurrant flavoured sherbet dabs, it could have been a disaster for hundreds. But only a minority wanted to leave. I thought, this is daft, so I walked straight back into the press gallery. I was proud of my colleagues. As attendants yelled at us to get out, we stood milling around trying see it all. These people were risking their lives to bring news to their readers, or at least a jokey paragraph.’

11 March 2004
[politics] Playing with Pretty-Straight-Kinda-Guy Bat — another Simon Hoggart Parliamentary Sketch. On Anne Widdecombe: ‘…the fascination for us came from watching Ms Widdecombe while [Tony Blair] failed to answer her question. Her brain appeared to lose all motor control over her body. Head, arms and legs began to fly off in wildly different directions, like a marionette manipulated by four drunken puppeteers. Weird growlings, rumblings and squeaks started to emerge. They became louder and more alarming. Imagine you were at a traction engine rally and the engine running towards you started to shake and shudder, while steam hissed out of the boiler. Suddenly the driver leaps off the seat and yells: “Save yourselves! It’s too late for me!” The Speaker had to interrupt, in the interests of public safety. “When you ask a question, it is polite to get the answer – even if you consider it not to be an answer.” This is the equivalent of fire safety officers dowsing her with foam.’
3 February 2004
[politics] Simon Hoggart on Alistair Campbell: ‘…you have to realise that most ministers have the same view of Alastair Campbell as butlers might of his lordship’s nasty, slobbery dog; they pretend to like the beast, but would dearly love to get it in the pantry and kick it in the slats.’
29 January 2004
[politics] PM Revels In Gloating – And Subconscious It Isn’t — another Simon Hoggart Sketch of Tony Blair. ‘…How he gloated! He didn’t just declare that he had been vindicated, washed clean, shriven like the lamb, proved utterly moist, fragrant, and smelling of roses, but he pranced and limbo danced on the graves of his enemies. As we prepared for the blizzard outside, Mr Blair was the new Captain Gloats: “Gentlemen, I am staying here. I may be some time.” He was triumphant….’
23 January 2004
[blogs] A couple of Simon Hoggart’s Sketches caught my eye …

  • As Morticians Gather, Blair Turns To The Cheese‘[Blair] always walks out in front of us with a great big cheesy smile on his face. I know that smile. It means: “I hate the lot of you bastards” – and who can blame him? We’re all on deathwatch. He must feel like a man in hospital who gets a visit from a polite but inquisitive class of trainee morticians.’
  • Bouncing Ken Brings The House Down‘You could ever call Mr Clarke white. His face and hands were the colour of brick, a terrific testimony to the preservative powers of pints of ale, cigarillos, and late night sessions in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. More than a decade ago Alan Clark called him “a puffball … that pudgy life-insurance risk,” but Clark died in 1999 and Ken remains with us, pudgier than ever but still defying the actuaries. He didn’t so much approach the dispatch box as bounce up, like a space hopper in a collar and tie.’

8 January 2004
[royals] How Did Di And Dodi Die? — Simon Hoggart at the Princess Diana Inquest … ‘Media from around the world had crowded into and around the Queen Elizabeth centre in London; no real courtroom could hold us all, and the coroner had to set up in a conference room. So the event had the air of a plenary session before the Institute of Chartered Surveyors annual dinner. Even the royal coat of arms was back-projected on to the wall, so you expected the coroner to say, at intervals, “next slide, please”. It was a classic instance of the way the British adapt, if unwillingly, to new circumstances, while insisting that nothing at all has changed. There was even a court official to remind us to switch off our mobile phones, a post going back to Tudor times; the holder was rewarded with an annual hogshead of Bailey’s Irish Cream.’
28 October 2003
[politics] Down in the Snake Pit, the Party Plots — Simon Hoggart on the Conservative Party Leadership Battle‘Gerald Kaufman arrived and sat alone. What a tragedy: possibly the finest all-pro plotter in the place, and stuck in the wrong party! Then in came IDS himself. He smiled up at the sketch writers, and was right to do so, since we want him to stay on. He’s more fun than any of his successors might be.’ [Related: Hoggart on Byliner]
16 October 2003
[politics] When the Plot Thickens Turn to the Beano — another parliamentary sketch from Simon Hoggart‘David Atkinson, the Tory member for Bournemouth East, reminded us that the former Europe minister Keith Vaz had declared that the European charter of fundamental rights would have no more legal significance than a copy of the Beano. At which he waved a copy of the Beano at us, as if we were too stupid to know to what he referred. Denis MacShane, the present European minister, drifted off down memory lane, to childhood days curled up with Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan. (Did you know that DD’s home in the wild west town of Cactusville was actually modelled on Dundee?) You might think it pathetic that grown men should wave comics at each other in the course of a debate. But that, I fear, is politics as well.’
29 August 2003
[politics] Forever a dull moment in the very busy life of Honest Tony — Simon Hoggart on Tony Blair at the Hutton Enquiry‘What did the rest of us expect? That he would break down? “I killed Dr Kelly as surely as if it had been my hand on the knife!” But Tony Blair doesn’t do sobbing, or rueful contrition. What he does well is calm, factual, reasonable. This week we heard that Dr Kelly had been greatly stressed by the oral exam for his PhD. Tony Blair would have turned up with a ring binder, a Caffe Nero and a welcoming smile for the examiners.’
31 July 2003
[politics] Don’t Mention The Whatever-It-Is — Simon Hoggart sketch of the press conference Tony Blair gave yesterday … ‘Outside in Downing Street it was drizzling gently, but inside it was hot and sticky. My ideal “top-down incentivised improvement” would have been to take my shirt off. We began to nod gently.’ [Related: Simon Hoggart on Byliner]
14 July 2003
[web] Simon Hoggart on Byliner — nice index tracking all Simon Hoggart’s recent columns. He recently encountered Margaret Thatcher: ‘At one point she began vigorously wiping down an occasional table for no apparent reason. This kind of thing used to be endearing or infuriating, according to your point of view. Now it looks sad, like an old lady not quite sure of what she should do with herself or her hands.’
27 June 2003
[politics] Dear Bill: They’ve Called Last Orders — Simon Hoggart sums up Denis Thatcher

‘The received wisdom now is that Denis Thatcher was far from being a gin-soaked old bigot. Well, up to a point. But he certainly relished the world of the golf and rugby club bar, the just-time-for-a-quick-sharpener, the jovial trust-you-to-walk-in-when-it’s-my-round culture. Or as he once put it to his wife when she queried his request for a stiff drink on a morning flight to Scotland: “My dear, it is never too early for a gin and tonic.” “He had,” said an appreciative lunch guest at Chequers, “a very sharp eye for a refill.” And if the term means anything at all, he was a bigot.’

13 May 2003
[politics] Gasps as the Wrecking Machine Careers out of Control — Simon Hoggart on Clare Short’s Resignation Speech. ‘…it was for [Blair] she saved the unkindest swing of the ball, the one meant to bring the chandelier crashing down on to the ballroom floor. “To the prime minister I would say that he has achieved great things since 1997, but paradoxically, he is in danger of destroying his legacy as he becomes increasingly obsessed by his place in history.” The man sounds like Blofeld. It was not hard to imagine the roof of Downing Street opening, klaxons sounding, as the nuclear-tipped missile rises up, trained on Birmingham Ladywood.’
3 April 2003
[politics] Unfazed Passenger on a Dizzying Ride — Simon Hoggart on Tony Blair … ‘Tony Blair arrived for prime minister’s questions looking quite unflustered. This is something of a feat for a man who must feel he’s in the back of a truck which is hurtling up a mountain side at 70mph, through a dozen hairpin bends, a dizzying drop first on the right, then to the left – and who is at the wheel? Donald Rumsfeld! Aaargh!’
27 January 2003
[politics] Hoggart’s Parliament Sketches — an archive of recent articles by Simon Hoggart about the British Parliament. On Tony Blair: ‘…he walked away with the cheers of his own party echoing round the chamber. It must be an extraordinary sensation – even in these days when the Commons counts for so much less – to arrive facing 30 minutes of abuse and complaint, and to leave hearing huzzas, bellows of applause, and the demented waving of order papers. It was like those TV dramas in which Winston Churchill thrills the House in 1940: the noises are a little too loud, over enthusiastic, too actory. It sounded like that. My guess is that Alastair Campbell has had a silicone chip installed in Mr Blair’s Y-fronts.’
4 July 2002
[politics] Hell hath no fury like Iain’s scorn — Simon Hoggart’s view of Prime Ministers Question Time … ‘The last question went to Ann Winterton, whose MP husband Nicholas has been recently knighted. The speaker called her Lady Winterton. What a strange country this is, in which two months ago a frontbencher can be fired for telling a joke which ends: “In our country Pakis are 10 a penny”, and is now honoured by the title Lady.’
3 November 2001
[war] Victory for the doom-mongers in a passionate war of words — Simon Hoggart on Labour MP’s and Afghanistan. On a speech by George Galloway: ‘…he had never thought he would see the day when Labour – Labour! – MPs supported the use of cluster bombs. “Is this war so finely poised that we need the use of cluster bombs?” He recalled Clare Short crying on Brighton beach at the very thought of land mines. “But cluster bombs are much worse than land mines.” Ms Short sat squat, alone and disgruntled on the front bench as Mr Galloway reached his peroration. It was the Northern Alliance who had destroyed and beggared Afghanistan with its mediaeval obscurantism. It was the Northern Alliance who hanged the former president and stuffed his penis into his mouth – “those are your new best friends!” he raged.’ [Related: Hoggart Archive]
10 October 2001
[politics] A right pair of Dolly Partons — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Party Conference … ‘Then there was a stir. “Welcome,” said the chairman (a woman), “a very special guest. The Rt Hon William Hague!” At this point the conference sprang to life and stood. Noises emerged. IDS accompanied him onto the platform. It was a fantastic, surreal sight. They looked like two boiled eggs in blue eggcups. Their pates gleamed in unison. I gazed from the balcony in awe. If you’d stuck a few sequins on their heads they’d have looked like Dolly Parton’s cleavage. Then Hague separated from his twin and stood at the front. The conference applauded wildly. Margaret Thatcher (three victories) got little more applause than William Hague (one landslide defeat). It was mad. They were cheering the albatross!’
6 October 2001
[politics] Presiminister Exits as Old Conflicts Rumble On … Simon Hoggart on Blair’s performance on Thursday. ‘The prime minister did not try to save the world again; he did that earlier this week. Instead this was his seventh day. For a moment he could rest, with a rapt House of Commons listening carefully and silently to everything. He gave a cool and precise survey of what is being done and what is being planned. As for the most sensitive evidence, “I enter a major caveat”, he said, unlike UBL himself, who has no doubt recently entered a major cave.’
3 October 2001
[politics] Field-marshal Blair rallies the troops for war – on socialism … Simon Hoggart on Blair’s Conference Speech. ‘Throughout this conference, Mr Blair has scarcely shown his face on the platform. Instead we are allowed to imagine him in the ops room, or at least the Metropole hotel, with an open scrambler to George Bush, dispatching ships, planes, tanks and men to the most hostile terrain on the planet. Or possibly watching This Morning with Twiggy. Not that it matters. There are times when leadership means staying out of the way.’
20 July 2001
[politics] The judge’s every word dripped with loathing and contempt — Simon Hoggart on the Archer Verdict. ‘Then the sentence and a speech from the judge which surely smashed into him as hard as the prison term. It must have been like being hosed down with sewage. Every word dripped with loathing and contempt: “As serious an offence of perjury as I have experience of, and as serious as I have been able to find in the books”. The judge spoke of the way he had preyed upon the weak and vulnerable to concoct his alibis; the way he had hurried along the original libel trial in order to tell his lies and spin his fabrications. It was a short speech, but lethal. Mr Justice Potts was about to take away his liberty, but first he wanted to strip off what shreds were left of his reputation.’ [Related: Archer’s Greasy Pole]
18 July 2001
[politics] Welcome to the House of Usher — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership Contest. ‘We will come out of this stronger and more united than ever!” Mr Ancram said. Oh, give it a rest, I thought. Only a hour or so ago, Nick Soames bellowed “F*** off!” at Michael Fallon. One Tory wife accused her husband – voting the wrong way, she thought – of “going through a midlife crisis and plunging his party into total oblivion”. There’s enough bitterness, wormwood and gall in the Tories now to keep an illegal absinthe distiller going for decades. And they haven’t even had the final round.’
11 July 2001
[politics] Tension mounts, the votes are in and, er … everyone’s a winner — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership election process. ‘The press amused themselves by insulting passing Tories. Someone offered Peter Lilley a spliff. “Only on Sundays,” he said. Nicholas Soames insulted us. “Why isn’t that man wearing a tie?” he demanded of a hack. “I have it in my pocket,” the fellow quavered. “Well, PUT IT ON!”. Ann Widdecombe rolled towards us. “Ancram!” she shouted at the massed questors for truth. “Ancram, Ancram, Ancram!” As she left the room, she barked: “Still Ancram!”‘
19 June 2001
[politics] Anne Widdecombe checks out… Steve Bell’s view and Simon Hoggart’s…. ‘We have lost her from the high seas; no more will we gaze at the billowing sails, the ensign fluttering proudly from her poop deck! And what made it perfect was that she went down with her guns firing – specifically at Michael Portillo, a pocket battleship which made the terrible mistake of approaching her broadside. Crump! “I don’t believe that Michael Portillo is the right person to lead the Conservative party!” Thump! “This is nothing personal, all I can say is, that this is what I sincerely believe!” Nothing personal? She loathes him. “I don’t want today to turn into personal denigration of Michael Portillo,” she added, to the sound of a 12″ gun slamming into foot-thick steel. This means, in translation, “I want you all to take it personally”.’
8 June 2001
[politics] A final election sketch from Simon Hoggart… Tories slapped in the face with a wet kipper. ‘At Tory central office there was a mood of miserable, dull acquiescence. It was as if the whole party had been slapped in the face with a wet kipper. The only excitement came when Michael Portillo declared on television that, whatever happened, he truly hoped William Hague would remain as leader. My goodness, we thought, will the desperate don stop at nothing to get the job? I thought of popping round to his house to see if BT installs phone lines at 2 o’clock in the morning. But some took a different view. Over at ITN, Norman Tebbit was asked if Portillo’s remarks meant that he had finally got cold feet. “I wouldn’t know,” Tebbit replied, “I have never slept with him.”‘
1 June 2001
[politics] Boris’s problem: he actually says what he thinks. Simon Hoggart on Boris Johnson‘…he is too honest. He can’t help saying what he means. I asked how William Hague was playing on the doorstep and he replied, “Huge, oh huge!” But that is not true, and so he can’t leave it there. He made massive, swooping, burying-head-in-hands motions, to show what he really meant. A woman said she had always voted Tory, but not this time. “You don’t engage me at all. You have too many people in the party now who are from a different planet entirely. And you’re going to win and be in a morale-destroying minority, when you could have a much better time editing the Spectator. And what about your wife and children?” Boris groaned, presumably because he suspected she was right on all counts.’
30 May 2001
[politics] Thatcher stars in Return of The Mummy‘She was immediately surrounded by Tories, protesters, television crews, reporters, uniformed policemen, special branch coppers, a man waving a 4ft cardboard cutout of her, twin girls performing karaoke versions of Abba hits, a chap with an anti-Kenneth Clarke poster, and a Scotsman with a rasping voice who accused her of hiding bribes from General Pinochet in a secret bank account – in short, a typical cross-section of modern British society. She clambered out. A woman stepped forward and shyly handed her a banana skin, which she accepted as if it were a bouquet. So when the woman began to harangue her about Tory education policy she swerved smartly away. “God bless Margaret Thatcher!” Conservatives shouted. “Boo! Out, out, out!” others shouted. “But she is out!” one of the Tories raged.’
8 March 2001
[budget] Steve Bell on Gordon Brown’s Budget…. ‘The Poor Box’. Simon Hoggart’s sketch of the Commons yesterday: ‘The Tories were thunderstruck by the chancellor’s boast, as if their entire air force had, so to speak, been destroyed on the ground. Michael Portillo looked utterly miserable. Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude seemed positively distraught. Ann Widdecombe’s eyes bulged alarmingly, as if her corsets had come to life and were squeezing the breath out of her. Michael Ancram, the normally ebullient party chairman, gave the impression of a man who has just detected a ferret climbing his trousers, north towards his Y-fronts.’
27 September 2000
[blair] Fantastic “sketch” of Tony Blair’s conference speech yesterday by Simon Hoggart: ‘He began with a ringing battlecry. “We’re crap!” he told the adoring delegates. “Yes, we’re crap, but we’re not as crappy as the other lot!” He didn’t put it quite like that, of course, but that was what he meant. It was that rarest moment, an apology from a politician. The dome, the fuel crisis, pensions, even prime minister’s question time. But he was sorry, God he was sorry. He’d never do it again. Would a bunch of flowers help?’