Page last updated at 21:25 GMT, Sunday, 8 January 2006

The wit and wisdom of Tony Banks

Tony Banks
Tony Banks will be remembered for his hilarious insults

In stark contrast to the generally turgid language of politics, Tony Banks was known for his acid tongue and sharp wit.

He called the once feared Tory Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher, "half mad", William Hague was labelled a "foetus" and even the human race was lambasted by the politician's withering fury.

The ex-MP's wit was often more reminiscent of a stand-up comic than a politician, cutting foes and friends down to size with a swashbuckling use of language which was frequently headline grabbing.


During the 1997 Labour Party conference he sparked controversy by describing then-Tory leader William Hague as a "foetus".

He later insisted, that Hague had "got the joke" and they were friends.

Meanwhile, another Tory MP, Terry Dicks, was dismissed as "living proof that a pig's bladder on the end of a stick can be elected to Parliament".

William Hague
William Hague saw the funny side of Banks's 'foetus' jibe

The former sports minister, who became Lord Stratford last year, showed reputations did not intimidate him when he accused Lady Thatcher of having "the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa-constrictor" during a Commons debate.

He added to that by calling the former Prime Minister a "half mad old bag lady" on another occasion.

Former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke was "a pot-bellied old soak", while former Prime Minister John Major was "so unpopular, if he became a funeral director people would stop dying".

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were "woolly-hatted, muesli-eating, Tory lick-spittles".

Lord Stratford often used Early Day Motions in parliament to tirade against the world's wider ills.


After it emerged that during World War II MI5 had proposed using pigeons as flying bombs, the keen animal rights activist tabled a motion condemning human beings as "obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal".

It also "looked forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the Earth and wipes them out, thus giving nature the opportunity to start again".

He also called for the banning of turtle soup and frogs legs from Westminster menus, while his denunciation of the Canadians as "dickheads" for culling seals threatened to cause a diplomatic rift.

Ever the innovator, Lord Stratford suggested installing Durex machines in Westminster so that the Tories would have fewer illegitimate children.

After a kiss-and-tell story appeared detailing how his close friend and fellow Chelsea fan David Mellor wore football kit during sex, he said: "Since the great days of Jimmy Greaves, it's the only time anyone's managed to score five times in a Chelsea shirt."

On retiring from the Commons last year, Lord Stratford said he was stepping down because dealing with constituents' problems was "intellectually numbing, and tedious in the extreme".

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Hear Sir Bobby Charlton pay tribute to Tony Banks

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