My friend Steve Hayward had the wit to paraphrase, in reaction to the arrival of Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, some comments about another incoming PM, eighty years ago next May. “Cambridge Cute,” a friend remarked of Steve’s good piece.
Speaking of Cambridge Cuties, I immediately thought of what Andrew Roberts described as “The Respectable Tendency,” the British establishment, in his great book, Eminent Churchilllians. So I dug into a dozen books to find more of what they said back then. (Lightly paraphrased.)
In 1686 the Oxford English Dictionary described “red herring,” a metaphor to draw pursuers off a track, as “the trailing or dragging of a dead Cat or Fox (and in case of necessity a Red-Herring) three or four miles…and then laying the Dogs on the scent…to attempt to divert attention from the real question.” I apply the term to quotes, allegedly by Churchill, which he never said—or if he did, was quoting somebody else.
Hence my Red Herrings Appendix, updated herewith, for the new, expanded edition of my quotes book Churchill by Himself.…
Q. “Rab” Butler, Churchill’s Minister of Education (1941-45) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1951-55), recalled that Churchill once told him he was doing less for the war effort than Churchill’s grey cat Nelson, who saved fuel and power by acting as a Prime Ministerial hot-water bottle. True?