Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 18:12 GMT

UK Politics

Duck scores MP bad English award

Rhodri Morgan: "Does a one legged duck swim in circles?"

A Labour candidate to lead the party into the elections for the new National Assembly for Wales has been given the prestigious Foot in Mouth award by the campaign for Plain English.

Rhodri Morgan speaking on Radio 4's Today programme
Rhodri Morgan the MP for Cardiff West received the award after a particularly colourful utterance on BBC2's Newsnight programme. Previous winners include Chancellor Gordon Brown and Teletubbies Marketing.

Responding to a question from presenter Jeremy Paxman on whether he was considering standing as a candidate for the Labour leadership in the assembly Mr Morgan said: "Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?"

Mr Paxman then took the remarks as Welsh for "yes".

Do bears . . . ?

Unable to attend the ceremony in person Mr Morgan sent a letter of acceptance, saying: "I am happy to accept the award in the spirit with which it was intended.

"I should however say in mitigation that the phrase I used was an attempt at a colourful expression in what is, after all, my second language.

"In addition, I also understand that the Pope is indeed a Catholic and that the arboreal dwelling creatures of the family Ursidae are not known to be users of the flush toilet."

Mr Morgan added: "I think I got the award because people actually enjoyed seeing Jeremy Paxman's jaw drop onto his chest and both of his eyebrows shoot skyward at the same time instead of just one."

He said he had remembered the quote from a Cardiff rugby player who had been awarded a Welsh cap and was asked if he was pleased to play for the national team.

But Today programme presenter John Humphrys was singled out for an Crystal Clear Award for his plain speaking.

He said: "The more we use language that everybody can understand the less 'they', that's, professionals and politicians, can get away with anything."

Politicians singled out for Golden Bulls

Home Secretary Jack Straw and Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson were also honoured by the Plain English Campaign Awards both receiving a coveted Golden Bull.

[ image: Jack Straw:
Jack Straw: "Guilty of nonsense"
Mr Straw also responded by letter saying: "Guilty as charged!

"Mitigation: Most of those to whom this guidance was addressed have first class honours in gobbledygook.

"However that is little excuse. Your award should encourage us to do better in future."

A Safeway store in Chapel-on-le-Frith, in Derbyshire, also won a Golden Bull for attempting to recruit an "ambient replenishment controller", or shelf-stocker.

Tax collectors in Greater Manchester won the same award for including a 240-word sentence in a letter to a complainant.

But the PEC 1998 Awards had praise for The Express newspaper, BBC presenter Terry Wogan, Halifax Financial Services, the National Westminster Bank, Abbey National, Bromsgrove District Council, Cornwall County Council and London Borough of Southwark.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Politics Contents

A-Z of Parliament
Talking Politics
Vote 2001

Relevant Stories

09 Dec 98 | UK Politics
Home secretary touted as future leader

09 Dec 98 | UK Politics
Former student leader's toughest decision

09 Dec 98 | The Economy
Mandelson seeks to calm Fairness at Work nerves

23 Nov 98 | UK Politics
Morgan pledges sleaze-free assembly

Internet Links

Plain English Campaign

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Livingstone hits back

Catholic monarchy ban 'to continue'

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Straw on trial over jury reform

Blairs' surprise over baby

Conceived by a spin doctor?

Baby cynics question timing

Blair in new attack on Livingstone

Week in Westminster

Chris Smith answers your questions

Reid quits PR job

Children take over the Assembly

Two sword lengths

Industry misses new trains target