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Friday, November 18, 2005

Great Political Eccentrics

“British Political history teems with eccentrics. Indeed if my own if my own experience is anything to go by, harbouring thoughts of going into politics is pretty eccentric on the first place. As the contents of this book prove, Britain has a pre-eminent claim to the title of the World’s leading Political Asylum.”
Neil Hamilton.

Found this book today, it’s full of chuckle making titbits.

Great Political Eccentrics, Neil Hamilton "Curious and Colourful Characters from over 250 years"

A.P.Herbert MP for Oxford University 1935 – 50

“…..One of his eccentricities was to write checks on anything which came to hand….”

In 1970 the editor of Punch presented him with a cheque written on the side of a cow. Barclays paid up but hoped “not to see the practise extended."

Herbert also wrote the only known cheque in verse

“Dear Bankers, PAY the undermentioned hounds
The shameful sum of FIVE AND EIGHTY POUNDS
By “hounds”of course, by custom, one refers
To SPECIAL INCOME TAX COMMISSIONERS
And these progenitors of woe and worry
You’ll find at LYNEWOOD ROAD, THAMES DITTON, SURREY

This is the second lot of tax, you know,
On money that I earned two years ago.
(The shark, they say, by no means nature’s knight,
Will rest with a single bite: The barracuda who’s a fish more fell
Comes back and takes the other leg as well.)
Two years ago. But things have changed since then.
My earnings dwindle; and the kindly state
Gives me a tiny pension - with my mate.
You’d think the State would generously roar
At least he shan’t pay Surtax any more’.
Instead, by this unchristian attack
They get two thirds of my poor pension back.
Oh very well, No doubt it’s for the best;
At all events, pray do as I request;
And let the good old custom be enforced
Don’t cash this cheque unless it is endorsed.

To his astonishment, after the poetic cheque had been cashed he received a reply from the Office for the Special Commissioners for Income Tax:

Dear Sir,

It is with pleasure that I thank
You for your letter and the order to your bank
To pay the sum of five and eighty pounds
To those here whom you designate as hounds.
Their appetite is satisfied. In fact,
You paid too much and I am forced to act,
Though such a course is easy, it would seem.
Your liability for later years
Is giving your accountants many tears;
And till such time as they and we can come
To amicable settlement on the sum
That represents your tax bill to the State
I’ll leave the overpayment to its fate.
I do not think this step will make you frown:
The sum involved is only half -a –crown.

Yours faithfully,

A.L. Grove


Even APH had to admit at this point he had been beaten at his own game. He replied

I thank you, Sir, but I am afraid
Of such a rival; in my trade;
One should never encourage those –
In future I shall pay in prose….”

And other such gems, a fun read for the cold winter nights ahead.

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