Monday 30 September 2019

Boris, Pretty Fanny and Squiffy

I’d as soon take advice from my valet as from the Conservative Party Conference, said Arthur James Balfour. Boris might agree, had he a valet. Tory Prime Ministers, even if they went to Eton, have come down in the world since 1905, but I hope No 10 provides him with one.

He'd agree with another of Balfour's maxims, 'Never apologise, never explain', according to the BBC News this morning which said that this has been Boris's motto all his life. They did not provide a source to back this assertion, which might have been merely supposition based on observation.

Balfour, who was known as Pretty Fanny when he entered the House because of his beauty, was once caught heavy petting in a summer house with a female Apostle but, unlike Boris, he seems to have been a lifelong virgin. 

He was perhaps the cleverest Prime Minister we ever had (or was that another Etonian, Gladstone?) and the least successful except for Sir Anthony Eden and Theresa May. Which of the latter was the worst we shall only know in a couple of decades.

Boris is not the first Prime Minister to be accused of putting his hand on a woman's thigh. No young woman was safe from H.H. Asquith's wandering hands. 

Talking of Asquith, his nickname was Squiffy. It is often said that this is the origin of the word squiffy, meaning tipsy, but it is not true. Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says that the word originated around 1873 and probably derives from "skew-whiff". I suppose Asquith might have been called Squiffy partly because he liked champagne but, though he liked a drink, a recent biography says that he did not drink to excess. 

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