Top ten political insults of 2010

Harriet Harman's ginger rodent slur was beaten by the insult levelled at Speaker John Bercow
Harriet Harman's ginger rodent slur was beaten by the insult levelled at Speaker John Bercow

Acrimony always plays a large part in politics, but that's especially the case in an election year. Here's our pick of the most egregious, appalling, outrageous insults levelled by politicians against each other in the last 12 months. Readers of a sensitive disposition should be wary - the results aren't always pretty.

By Alex Stevenson

10 - Insulting a whole nation

Insulting the Scottish is probably not the best strategy when you're trying to get elected to the Scottish parliament, which probably explains why Glasgow Maryhill candidate Ivor Tiefenbrun was given his marching orders by the Scottish Conservatives in October. He had told the Scotsman newspaper that "you would have to be thick to accept that" Baroness Thatcher was an "evil force" in Scotland. Tiefenbrun was condemned for lacking political maturity and forced to issue a grovelling resignation. Not a great year for his political career, then.


9 - Nazi slogans don't go down well
The first of two entries by Ukip MEPs in this list, Godfrey Bloom's outburst in the European parliament in November raised eyebrows even by their bushy standards. Bloom's intervention came in a speech from the German Social Democratic party's Martin Schulz. "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer," Bloom shouted, echoing the infamous Nazi slogan used by Adolf Hitler. Bloom claimed Schultz was a "national socialist" - and faced disciplinary proceedings for his troubles.

8 - A lack of loyalty

Gordon Brown didn't have a great election campaign. But even his morale must have hit a new low when one of his party's candidates decided to condemn his leadership outright. As a Labour candidate Manish Sood's job was to convince Norfolk North West's voters that Brown was the best man for Downing Street. He didn't quite follow the party line, telling his local paper: "I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country. It is a disgrace and he owes an apology to the people and the Queen." Sood favoured giving the Queen more powers, controlling religious education more closely and reintroducing the death penalty. Not your average Labour candidate, then.

7 - Take that, the working class

One Labour candidate who didn't even make it through the general election campaign was Cambridgeshire South East's John Cowan, a 35-year-old whose 'offensive remarks' cost him the chance of becoming an MP. For starters, he said he would not be happy if his future son or daughter wanted to "date a Muslim". He then admitted a strong sexual appetite, preferring "one [woman] for each day of the week". And then there were his comments about British working class women. Cowan, not the most effective purveyor of the English language, wrote: "Whats is it with Working class English Women for a start most of them are not very attractive and all they seem to be interested in is ripping of nice gents like myself whilst getting ****** and ******* factory workers." Hmmm. At least he was unrepentant, telling the Telegraph newspaper: "I post what I think. I think to be honest there is a level of transparency there that isn't normally associated with many people in politics." Labour's share of the vote plummeted by 13.3%. Perhaps the problem was that voters just didn't like him.

6 - Gutter language from Labour

Another Labour casualty was the party's candidate for Moray, who was forced to step down just days into the general election campaign after "gutter" language on his Twitter page was highlighted. Stuart MacLennan's insults were impressive in their breadth, if not in their sophistication. David Cameron was labelled a "t**t", Nick Clegg a "b*****d" and fellow Labour party member Diane Abbott a "f***ing idiot". MacLennan apologised but was sacked nonetheless. "Labour have run a repugnant and desperate campaign so far," the Scottish Conservatives' leader Annabel Goldie sneered. Labour's share of the vote in Moray slipped by 3.3% on polling day, with the Tories coming second to the SNP.

5 - Brussels sprouts contempt

Eurosceptic loathing is always entertaining, which may be why there are two Ukip outbursts in this top ten. The party reached another high/low point (take your pick) in March when Nigel Farage attacked the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy. "Who are you? I'd never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you," Farage told the former Belgian prime minister in a European parliament session. "You seem to have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states... perhaps that's because you come from Belgium, which is pretty much a non-country." Ouch! Farage paid the price. Literally, in fact, in the form of a 3,000 euro fine.

4 - Those 'scum-sucking' Tories

Former Labour whip David Wright found himself in trouble in February after attacking the Conservatives. Adopting a Barack Obama jibe against Sarah Palin, he tweeted: "you can put lipstick on a scum-sucking pig but it is still a scum-sucking pig". 'Scum-sucking', the addition to Obama's insult, was particularly inspired. But for some reason Wright didn't want to take the credit, claiming his Twitter account had been "tinkered with". The damage had been done. The Tories attacked his "gutter language" - and three months later slashed his majority to under 1,000.

3 - MPs' expenses tantrums

Perhaps the only rival for the public's hatred of MPs in the wake of the expenses scandal is MPs' hatred for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the watchdog set up to monitor their allowances. A freedom of information request in August revealed the more extreme manifestations of their frustration with its ropy bureaucratic procedures. "This system is a f***ing abortion", one shouted. "I am going to murder someone today," a female MP said, after rampaging around swearing loudly. Let's hope staff at Ipsa, who were variously described as "monkeys", "nutty", and "f***ing idiots", have thick skins.

2 - Harman vs the 'ginger rodent'

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman went a bit too far in her attack on the Liberal Democrats' chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, in October. Addressing the Scottish Labour party conference, whose members spend most of their time Alexander-bashing, she said: "Many of us in the Labour party are conservationists - and we all love the red squirrel. But there is one ginger rodent which we never want to see again - Danny Alexander." How they laughed. But after a media backlash Harman was forced to apologise, and Alexander ended up having the last word. "I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up mess others leave behind," he commented. "Red squirrel deserves to survive, unlike Labour."

1 - Bercow-bashing

Commons Speaker John Bercow managed to get re-elected to the job after this year's general election, but he has yet to win over the bulk of his former colleagues in the Conservative party. When junior minister Simon Burns was heard to call him - in the Commons chamber, no less - a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf" there was unsurprisingly uproar. It was as much the fallout from this ongoing joke which makes it the best insult of 2010. According to David Cameron, the pair clashed again when Burns' driver reversed into Speaker Bercow's car in the Commons. When Mr Bercow descended and told the offending driver "I'm not Happy", the response came: "Well, which one are you?", in a reference to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. At least Bercow has solace on hand from his wife, Sally, who tweeted: "If Mr B's a dwarf then I'm Snow White. And David Cameron is definitely Dopey."

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