Bring Boris Back? British Politicians, Churchillian Nicknames

Bring Boris Back? British Politicians, Churchillian Nicknames

Floorcross to Buckethead

British politi­cians have such won­der­ful names. Ed Balls. Mark Reck­less. Lord Buck­et­head, who won 125 votes run­ning against Boris John­son in Uxbridge for the Mon­ster Rav­ing Looney Par­ty.

If your own name’s not fun enough, your fel­low MPs may give you a more amus­ing one. In the post­war Labour gov­ern­ment, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Sir Hart­ley Shaw­cross began sound­ing more and more con­ser­v­a­tive. His fel­low MPs dubbed him Sir Short­ly Floor­cross. [1]

The tra­di­tion con­tin­ues. A few years ago, when Tory Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pinch­er was involved in a sex scan­dal, Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son dubbed him “Pinch­er by name, pinch­er by nature.” The laugh was on Boris for cov­er­ing up and not sack­ing him back then. And when anoth­er escapade erupt­ed in June, it was Boris who was pinched.

In July, fac­ing mass cab­i­net res­ig­na­tions, he agreed to step down when the par­ty selects his suc­ces­sor in Sep­tem­ber. So now, 180,000 par­ty mem­bers will vote for one of two sur­viv­ing con­tenders. They include—who else?—Liz Truss and her sup­port team. (See what I mean about names?) Ms. Truss just delet­ed a tweet: “I promise to hit the ground from day one.”

Will Boris return?

Now we have a dis­tin­guished peer named Lord Crud­das of Shored­itch. What would Win­ston Churchill have made of that moniker? Lord Cre­dence of Last­ditch, perhaps….

Because, giv­en the choic­es before the par­ty, Lord Crud­das and oth­ers would like Boris John­son to stay. So the noble lord is back­ing a peti­tion for Tory MPs to have a say on his future.

Why not? Lord Crud­das asks: “Boris is a very artic­u­late, very well-edu­cat­ed, clas­si­cal­ly edu­cat­ed per­son.” John­son was scin­til­lat­ing in his final Prime Minister’s Ques­tions, clos­ing with a Churchillian admo­ni­tion: “Keep in with the Amer­i­cans.” A par­ty mem­ber wrote me: “Nobody comes near to him in terms of panache. That was pure Win­ston Churchill.” [2] Boris received a stand­ing ova­tion from Tory MPs, and even a col­le­gial farewell from the Leader of the Oppo­si­tion.

Lord Crud­das cor­rect­ly notes that Boris is not chan­nel­ing WSC. Churchill increased his own plu­ral­i­ty in 1945, but was thrown out as PM when Labour swept the gen­er­al elec­tion. It took him six years to return to 10 Down­ing Street, still head of his par­ty. Boris was eject­ed by his fel­low Tories, and has already resigned as par­ty leader.

But Churchill did make a lot of come­backs, and British pol­i­tics may not have seen the last of John­son. The Dai­ly Express sug­gests that he deployed the wrong Schwarzeneg­ger line when he wound up ques­tion time with “Has­ta la vista, baby.” They think what he real­ly meant was, “I’ll be back.” (Maybe as NATO secretary-general.)

Churchillian nicknames

A sam­pler from Churchill by Himself:

“Admi­ral de Row-Back”: Admi­ral of the Fleet Sir John Roe­beck (1862-1928) com­mand­ed the ini­tial Anglo-French attempt to force the Dar­d­anelles. Mar­tin Gilbert: “[In] the imme­di­ate after­math of the set­back of 18 March, had the Admi­ral tried again, he would have had a good chance of suc­cess. The Admi­ral was John de Robeck. Churchill, who loved nick­names, quick­ly dubbed him Admi­ral ‘de Row-back.’” —Spring 1915 [3]

“Can’tellopolus”: Pana­gi­o­tis Kanel­lopou­los (1902–1986), Greek prime min­is­ter, 1945, 1967. WSC: “Kanel­lopou­los, Can’tellopolus, Kan­tel­lopolous.… All right. I’ll see him!” —Cairo, August 1942 [4]

“Prince Pal­sy”: Prince Paul of Yugoslavia (1893–1976), Regent of Yugoslavia for King Peter II from 1934 until he signed a pact with Nazi Ger­many, March 1941. WSC: “Our inter­ven­tion in Greece caused the rev­o­lu­tion in Yugoslavia which drove out Prince ‘Pal­sy,’ and delayed the Ger­man inva­sion of Rus­sia by six weeks.” —August 1948 [5]

“Pug”: Hast­ings Lionel Ismay, First Baron Ismay (1887-1965), Churchill’s chief mil­i­tary assis­tant 1940-45, first NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al, 1952-57. Louis Spears: “His expres­sion explained his nick­name Pug. It was a nat­ur­al…. His rather promi­nent eyes had the qual­i­ty which make men love dogs [with their] unwa­ver­ing loy­al­ty…” [6]

“Stifford Crapps”: Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (1889–1952), Labour MP, Ambas­sador to Rus­sia and Min­is­ter of Air­craft Pro­duc­tion in the wartime coali­tion, chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer in the post­war Labour Gov­ern­ment. Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne: “WSC used to refer to him as ‘Stifford Crapps’ and once remarked, ‘There, but for the Grace of God, goes God.’” —Cir­ca 1952-55 [7]

“Use­less Per­cy”: Eustace Per­cy, First Baron of New­cas­tle (1887-1958), diplo­mat; Con­ser­v­a­tive peer, Pres­i­dent Board of Edu­ca­tion, 1924-29. WSC to his wife: “Neville [Cham­ber­lain, Min­is­ter of Edu­ca­tion] is cost­ing £2 1/2 mil­lions more and Lord Use­less Per­cy the same.” —30 Octo­ber 1927 [8]


1. Sir Hart­ley William Shaw­cross, Baron Shaw­cross (1902-2003), bar­ris­ter; Labour MP for St. Helens, Lancs., 1945-58. Lead British pros­e­cu­tor at the Nurem­berg War Crimes tri­bunal, attor­ney gen­er­al for Eng­land and Wales. He nev­er crossed the floor, and lived to be 101. Col­in Thorn­ton-Kem­s­ley, Through Winds and Tides (Mon­trose: Stan­dard Press, 1974), 221.

2.  Churchill’s final words to his non-Cab­i­net min­is­ters as he retired on 5 April 1955 were: “Nev­er be sep­a­rat­ed from the Amer­i­cans.” Richard M. Lang­worth, ed., Churchill by Him­self (New York: Roset­ta, 2016), 121.

3. Mar­tin Gilbert, In Search of Churchill: A Historian’s Jour­ney (Lon­don: Collins, 1994), 58.

4. Antho­ny Eden, The Reck­on­ing (Lon­don: Cas­sell, 1965), 339.

5. Robert Booth­by, Rec­ol­lec­tions of Rebel (Lon­don: Hutchin­son, 1978), 61.

6. Louis Spears, Assign­ment to Cat­a­stro­phe, vol. 1, Pre­lude to Dunkirk, July 1939-May 1940 (Lon­don: Heine­mann, 1954), 161.

7. Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne, Long Sun­set: Mem­oirs of Win­ston Churchill’s Last Pri­vate Sec­re­tary (Lon­don: Cas­sell, 1995), 76.

8. Mar­tin Gilbert, Win­ston S. Churchill, vol. V, Prophet of Truth 1922-1939 (Hills­dale, Mich.: Hills­dale Col­lege Press, 2009), 249.

More on Boris and nicknames

“Churchill’s Potent Polit­i­cal Nick­names,” 2020

Boris, Racism, and ‘The Road to Man­dalay,’” 2019

John­son, Trump…Can We Stop Com­par­ing Every­body to Churchill?,” 2019

Boris Says the Strangest Things,” 2014.

Boris: What Win­ston Churchill Would Do,” 2014







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