I’ve just finished listening to the third of our Great Debates – the discussions between the leaders of our three main political parties. It was interesting, and the series of confrontations has certainly livened up the pre-election scene here. But I have to admit that political rhetoric is not fully mind-absorbing to a cynical former journalist like me. So I passed the time in trying to track down a quotation I heard recently and can’t find. I thought it was a saying of Sherlock Holmes, an aside in one of his later adventures. It goes something like:
“Whatever we may think of life, it’s infinitely preferable to the alternative.”
Can someone help me out here? If it wasn’t written by Conan Doyle, then who was it written by…er that is, by whom was it written…no, blow it, my old English teacher is unlikely to read this. Who was it written by? If you know, please tell.
As the debate continued, I started looking for sayings that would be useful to our three performing politicians, perhaps as bumper stickers or post-it notes on their walls.
How about this: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” from Sir Ernest Benn. He was a publisher and publicist born in Queen Victoria’s time, and today his words are still too true to be funny, really.
And then a beauty from Winston Churchill, especially for our Prime Minister who (in case you’ve just returned from Mars) blotted his copybook yesterday, by being rude about someone while forgetting that his radio mike was still live and recording. “We are masters of the unsaid words,” Churchill remarks, “but slaves of those we let slip out.”
My favourite collected during the ninety-minute broadcast – new to me, though I’m sure American readers probably learnt it at school – is this one from Abraham Lincoln:
“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
Now there’s a truth every politician should take on board.