Top 25 political quotes of 2010

Gordon Brown's 'bigot' quote cost him the election
Gordon Brown's 'bigot' quote cost him the election

Here's a selection of the best soundbites of the last 12 months, summing up the biggest moments of what has been a dramatic and unpredictable year.

By Alex Stevenson


January 8th: Geoff Hoon admitted that his attempt to oust Gordon Brown was "over", but remained unrepentant about his message after Labour backbenchers failed to rally to his cause:

"I think it is critical that the Labour party goes into the general election with a very clear view of what we stand for and that that message can get across. And too often in recent months that message has been lost in all the noise about the leadership.

"Our aim was simply to resolve this matter once and for all."

Cadbury takeover

January 19th: Kraft's buyout of UK chocolate-maker Cadbury shocked the country, as yet another British firm fell prey to international buyers. In a joint statement on the takeover, West Midlands Labour MPs Lynne Jones, Richard Burden, Steve McCabe and Gisela Stuart admitted they are "very concerned":

"We think what has been happening to Cadbury's also illustrates the vulnerability of UK companies to hostile or predatory takeovers. This is something which both parliament and government needs to address."

Blair's Iraq inquiry appearance

January 29th: Former prime minister Tony Blair attracted the first major protests of the year in Westminster, but it certainly wasn't the last. He saved his most defiant statement in a day-long evidence session until the very end, when asked by Sir John Chilcot whether he had any regrets about taking Britain to war against Saddam Hussein:

"Responsibility, but not regret."

RIP Michael Foot

March 3rd: Labour's former leader Michael Foot passed away at the age of 96, leaving the party mourning one of its best-loved figures from the past. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber's tribute was among the best:

"Everyone will be saddened by the death of Michael Foot - a man who personified decency and integrity in politics.

"Simply to mention his name is to be taken back to an era when every politician needed to be an orator and command an audience."

Not the kingmaker

March 14th: Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg addressed frenzied speculation about what would happen in the event of a hung parliament in his leader's speech to the party's spring conference in Manchester:

"When people understandably ask me these things, I keep coming back to the same simple truths: I am not the kingmaker.

"The 45 million voters of Britain are the kingmakers. They give the politicians their marching orders, not the other way round. It's called democracy."

Brown calls the election

April 6th: After putting the decision off for - well, most of his premiership, Brown finally announced the date of the general election one month before polling day. After heading to Buckingham Palace to inform the Queen, he laid out his plan for Labour's ultimately unsuccessful campaign on the steps of Downing Street:

"I will take to the people a very straightforward and clear message: Britain is on the road to recovery and nothing we do should put that recovery at risk.

"That is why I'm asking you, the British people, for a clear and straightforward mandate to continue the hard work of securing the recovery, building our industries for the future and creating a million skilled jobs."

First TV debate

April 15th: Having finally given into years of nagging by the broadcasters, the party leaders made history by participating in Britain's first televised leaders' debate. It was Clegg who, having previously been out of the limelight compared to Brown and Cameron, made the biggest impact with his opening statement:

"I'm here to persuade you that there is an alternative. Don't let anyone tell you the only choice is old politics. We can do something new."

Clegg's poll surge

April 19th: It didn't take long for the full extent of 'Cleggmania' to emerge. One poll even put the Lib Dems in first place. While Brown observed acidly that "I know a little about what it is to have a short political honeymoon," referring to his brief window of popularity just after entering No 10, Cameron's vague and unclear reaction showed how thoroughly rattled he was:

"That is the excitement of an election campaign - there are moves and tides, and shifts and great sweeps."


April 28th: After Brown was overheard calling Labour voter Gillian Duffy a "bigoted woman" because she had expressed concerns about immigration all hell broke loose. The PM was visibly rocked as the audio from the recording was played back to him. His grovelling response probably sealed his fate.

"I'm mortified by what's happened. I misunderstood what was said. She's accepted that and she's accepted my apology.

"I'm a penitent sinner. Once you use that word and made a mistake you should apologise."

Cameron's offer

May 7th: One day after polling day, when he had probably been planning on moving into Downing Street, Cameron was instead forced back to the St Stephen's Club to appeal to the Lib Dems:

"Our big, open and comprehensive offer involves helping them to implement key planks of their election manifesto, providing the country with economic as well as political stability and finding further ways in which Liberal Democrats can be involved in making this happen."

Brown finally goes

May 11th: It took a few days, but after a complete lack of personal chemistry with Clegg the utterly resilient Brown finally accepted his number was up. His dignified exit from Downing Street impressed all who saw it:

"Only those who have held the office of prime minister can understand the full weight of its responsibilities and its great capacity for good.

"I have been privileged to learn much about the very best in human nature and a fair amount too about its frailties - including my own."

Cameron and Clegg

May 12th: The following lunchtime, Britain's new prime minister and his deputy were in the Rose Garden giving reporters a feel for their own promising personal relations. Clegg was keen to emphasise the change from before:

"Until today we were rivals and now we're colleagues. That says a lot about the scale of the new politics that's now beginning to unfold."

But Cameron, in an under-reported section of the press conference, was preparing for trouble ahead:

"This is going to be hard and difficult work. The coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges, but I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs, based on those values, rebuilding family, rebuilding community, above all, rebuilding responsibility in our country."

Labour's legacy

May 17th: This was the day when the Liberal Democrats' chief secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, revealed the contents of a note written by his Labour predecessor Liam Byrne. What was supposed to have been a light-hearted, personal message turned into a painfully damaging gaffe for the new opposition:

"Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid there is no money. Kind regards - and good luck! Liam."

Emergency Budget

June 24th: With VAT up to 20%, the big debate in the aftermath of George Osborne's first big day as chancellor was about whether the cuts were progressive or not. The judgement of Robert Chote and his Institute for Fiscal Studies was directly attacked by Clegg after Chote questioned the government's plans:

"Osborne and Clegg have been keen to describe yesterday's measures as progressive in the sense that the rich will feel more pain than the poor. That is a debatable claim.

"The Budget looks less progressive - indeed somewhat regressive - when you take out the effect of measures that were inherited from the previous government, when you look further into the future than 2012/13, and when you include some other measures that the Treasury has chosen not to model."

Mandelson's memoirs

July 18th: The former business secretary was Labour's arch-spin doctor during the campaign, but his biggest impact on 2010 came with the publication of his memoirs, The Third Man, in July. The party which had finally learned to love him soon changed its mind, putting Mandelson on the defensive. He told The Andrew Marr Show:

"I know for some people inside the Westminster village it will have been dropped like some kind of controversial explosive bombshell... but I wrote it for the voting general public.

"All the people who have been sounding off... they hadn't read the book. I think there's a very important and interesting story to be told about the government."

Ed Miliband's challenge

September 10th: As the Labour leadership campaign drew to a close the main candidates granted interviews. Ed Miliband was keen to move on from the past:

"We need to learn the lessons of New Labour, of appealing to all sections of society. But we've got to be willing to question some assumptions about flexible labour markets, for example, because too many were left in low paid work and thought we weren't for them. I think it's about having the courage to change and to move on and fundamentally that's what my campaign is about."

David Miliband looks ahead

September 14th: The favourite in the face, his elder brother David, was feeling satisfied with his efforts:

"I think that what counts is where you're going, not where you've come from. That is why I fought a campaign about the future of Britain, why I urged the Labour party to look outwards and not inwards."

A papal address

September 17th: It was the first official visit by a pontiff to Britain, but amidst all the smiles and goodwill Pope Benedict XVI had a critical message for the UK:

"Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance."

Clegg begs party members

September 20th: The mood in Liverpool was surprisingly pliant, despite the party defeating its leadership over free school meals. Clegg addressed concerns about the coalition head on as he prepared his party for deep unpopularity:

"The years ahead will not be easy but they will make the difference our country needs. Stick with us while we rebuild the economy. Stick with us while we restore our civil liberties, protect our environment, nurture our children and repair our broken politics. Stick with us and together we will change Britain for good."

A shock result

September 25th: It was the unions wot won it for Ed Miliband, who had been defeated by David when it came to the party's MPs and broader membership. The visibly stunned victor was greeted by party members with acclaim, nonetheless, as he laid out plans for a new kind of Labour:

"I believe in Britain. Today's election turns a page because a new generation has stepped forward to serve our party and in time to serve out country. Today, the work of the new generation begins."

Exit David Miliband

September 28th: It was too much for the vanquished elder brother. He announced he was quitting frontline politics because he feared "perpetual, distracting and destructive attempts to find division where none exists". But the best quote from Manchester was unintentional, as he was caught on camera sneering at Ed Miliband's opposition to the Iraq war.

David Miliband to Harriet Harman: "Why are you clapping? You voted for it."
Harman: "I'm clapping because he's the leader and I'm supporting him."

Comprehensive spending review

October 20th: It dominated the autumn, and its consequences will dominate the next five years. Massive cuts across the government were unveiled all at once by Osborne, who determinedly attempted to put a positive spin on the news in his first words to the Commons:

"Today's the day when Britain steps back from the brink. When we confront the bills from a decade of debt.

"A day of rebuilding when we set out a four-year plan to put our public services and welfare state on a sustainable footing - for the long term. It is a hard road, but it leads to a better future."

Phil Woolas disgraced

November 5th: A specially convened election court finally concluded that Phil Woolas had misrepresented the facts in Oldham East and Saddleworth, rendering his narrow 103-vote win over Lib Dem challenger Elwyn Watkins null and void. Watkins, who will fight the by-election, had reason to be satisfied:

"Anyone who knowingly lies to the voters or looks to set constituent against constituent has no place in a democracy.

"I hope this judgment makes it very clear that if you deceive your constituents you should be kicked out of parliament."

Johnson finally falls into line

December 8th: Ed Miliband's troublesome shadow chancellor had been openly disagreeing with his leader on the 50p rate of income tax and on graduate tax, which he had opposed. It took a while, but by the end of the year he was finally falling into line:

"We are now seeing how casually the variable fees system can be distorted with such damaging effects.

"It is in these circumstances that there is a strong case for a graduate tax, which may offer a fairer way of sharing costs between individuals and government."

A violent end to 2010

December 9th: Fighting spread beyond Parliament Square after an afternoon and evening of clashes with police, in the latest major outbreak of student anger over tuition fees. After the Commons backed the proposals with a majority of just 21, the situation worsened, with Prince Charles and Camilla among those finding themselves in trouble. David Cameron's stern statement about the protesters afterwards wasn't compromising:

"They must face the full force of the law. The police have confronted considerable danger, and a number have been injured as they sought to uphold the right to peaceful protest.

"It is shocking and regrettable that the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall was caught up and attacked."


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