Wit and wisdom of Tony Banks

The former Sports minister, who died on Sunday, wore his wit with a rare distinction. Here we salute the acerbic and abrasive interventions by one of the Commons' sharpest performers
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I'm completely gobsmacked. It's a bit like going to heaven without having to die first. - On his appointment as Minister for Sport, May 1997

God, this is a bit rudimentary, isn't it? It's like a prison cell. I don't think much of the trappings of office so far. Nothing in the out tray, nothing in the urgent tray, nothing in the pending tray, just the way it should be. - On entering his Ministerial office for the first time, May 1997

I have no intention of even thinking about being Secretary of State, and I am sure that same vision is shared by the Prime Minister. - May 1988

I am one of those who believe that it is ridiculous to suggest that bright kids read books and thickos do sports. - July 1998

I am still in this job [Minister for Sport] and that is sometimes as great a surprise to me as to anyone else - December 1997

For years the main complaint I heard about Tory ministers was that they didn't say anything, they were invisible men. But now whenever I say anything I'm accused of being controversial and shouting my big mouth off. Journalists, even more than politicians, want to have their cake and eat it. - March 1988

The idea that the only sports worth encouraging are competitive sports is bollocks. It's ideological bollocks. And I hope you ain't going to see too much ideological bollocks around here. - May 1998

I'd rather be Minister for Sport than Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - I'll tell you that for nothing! - August 1997

I didn't expect to be a minister and that being so, my attitude remains one of "Why am I here?" I'm here to do something positive and useful, not just ponce around. - August 1997

It really annoys me that these days I can get coverage for breaking wind as I walk down the road, but I cannot get coverage for the excellent international achievements of our disabled sportsmen and women. - June 1997

My role is to serve as the long-stop, for those who are cricketers, or as the sweeper, for those interested in soccer. I see myself as perhaps the Ruud Gullit of the Government team, although as honourable members will probably notice, I am considerably shorter, I am not black and I do not have dreadlocks. - June 1997

If I had to choose between being the Sports minister or a Chelsea supporter I wouldn't be the Sports minister. - May 1997

As this job sits on the rankings of Westminster, it is of a humble and lowly nature. It is only one step above a gofer. But that's the view of the politicians. It isn't the view of the punters. - May 1997

They've had 18 years to fuck the country up. We've had only two days. And we're not doing badly. - May 1997

Tony Banks: I wish to push the Secretary of State a little further. When can we expect an announcement? I have twice brought my sponge bag and twice I have returned home early. My wife clearly thinks that I am having an unsuccessful affair.

Nicholas Ridley: I really do not think I can be held responsible for the disappointment to Mrs Banks.

Tony Banks: Is not the Chancellor of the Exchequer [Nigel Lawson] insulting the House by refusing to come here and make a statement on what is clearly a matter of grave significance for the economy? Not only does the right honourable gentleman physically resemble Nero, but he is clearly adopting the same attitude. Will you confirm, Mr Speaker, that you have the power to order the fat bounder to be dragged here from the dinner table?

Mr Speaker: Order. First, I have not that power. Secondly, I dislike that expression, which I ask the Hon gentleman to withdraw.

Tony Banks: In that case, Mr Speaker, I shall say 'the corpulent bounder'

Mr Speaker: That is almost as bad.

Edwina Currie: His physique is puny.

Tony Banks: the Hon Lady has obviously been peeping because that is exactly what my wife says.

Was the story in the Sunday newspapers - that the Queen's head is too large for the euro coin - true? If that is so, does the Prime Minister [John Major] intend to negotiate the size of the coin, or does he have more drastic measures in mind? - December 1995, Prime Minister's Questions

Two words spring to mind in response to that answer. The first is "bull". - November 1996

Do you ever get that scary feeling that there's more than one Peter Mandelson? What are they really doing in Millbank Tower? They tell us it's a communications centre. Well, I reckon they're making Mandelsons up there and getting ready to store them in that Millennium Dome in Greenwich. When the clock strikes midnight on 31 December 1999, millions of Mandelsons will emerge from the Dome and civilisation as we know it will be at an end. - Tribune rally, 30 September 1997

If my hon friend wants a spliff I will no doubt be able to supply him with one, but it will not be one that I have rolled myself. - To Labour MP Nigel Spearing during a debate on drug misuse, 9 June 1995

Peter Mandelson is a sweet guy, you know. But I eat lots of garlic and I sleep with garlic flowers round my neck. So I'm safe ... for the moment. - The Guardian, 10 May 1998

He was a fairly competent chairman of housing [on Lambeth Council]. Every time he gets up now I keep thinking "what on earth is Councillor Major doing?" I can't believe he's here and sometimes I think he can't either. - April 1994

Woolly-hatted, muesli-eating, Tory lick-spittles. - On Liberal Democrats

A pot bellied old soak. - On Kenneth Clarke

In his usual arrogant and high-handed fashion, he dons his Thatcherite jackboots and stamps all over local opinion. He is like Hitler with a beer belly. - On Kenneth Clarke

Listening to him is like listening to Vlad the Impaler present Blue Peter. He is undoubtedly living proof that a pig's bladder on a stick can be elected as a Member of Parliament. - On the Tory MP Terry Dicks

Managing to put the camp back into campanology. - On Michael Fabricant

You could have an exhibition inside your own underpants. - To Nicholas Soames

She [Margaret Thatcher] is a half-mad old bag lady. The Finchley whinger. She said poll tax was the Government's flagship. Like a captain she went down with her flagship. Unfortunately for the Conservative Party she keeps bobbing up again. Her head keeps appearing above the waves.

She [Thatcher] behaves with all the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa constrictor - October 1997

I am a former piscatorial participant. I do not wish to sound immodest, but I was known in my day as a piscatorial artist - one of the finest. - June 1997 on fishing

The trouble is that the Labour Party feels, to a certain extent, that it's got to control everything. If we make mistakes, or if there are differences of opinion, we have to bring them out more. - New Statesman, November 1997

To make things worse, the Tories have elected a foetus as leader. I bet a lot of them wish they had not voted against abortion now. - On William Hague, September 1997

We have connived. We have gone along with the party shifting to the right in desperation to win an election. - October 1997

He probably doesn't sleep at night at all. - On Peter Mandelson, July 1998

It was an amazing scene yesterday when the Chancellor of the Exchequer [Kenneth Clarke] was at the Dispatch Box. It was the political equivalent of Landseer's The Stag at Bay. I know he is a rather portly stag, but rabid hounds were all around him - well, they were not all around him; they were all behind him. - December 1996

A kind of architectural penis envy. - On the Millennium Dome

He is a man whose contribution to the arts is about the same as Bluebeard's contribution to the institution of marriage. - On Tory MP Terry Dicks

A cross between Sir John Falstaff and Bertie Wooster. - On Nicholas Soames, April 1993

It is very foolish to criticise Paddy [Ashdown] because he can kill with his bare hands - The Daily Telegraph, 10 May 1997

It was just a little bit of uncustomary bile on my part that led me to say those unkind, ruthless and altogether accurate things that I said about him. - On Tory MP David Amess, April 1996

Only someone like Michael Howard, who has had his sense of irony surgically removed, would fail to blush as he utters the things he does. - December 1998

He always strikes me as being like one of the Marx Brothers ... the rather sad one who keeps running into things and never does anything quite right. - On Tory MP Richard Tracey

I seem to represent some of the dirtiest constituents in the country, and what's more, I say so in the local paper. That was the gist of my ... message to the good folk of Newham - that they were a pretty filthy bunch who should clean up their act. - Hansard, 11 January 1996

I would take much pleasure in knowing there are still bits of me circulating when I have gone to the upper chamber in the sky. Indeed, if bits of me were left for others to use, some unkind people might suggest that was the only decent thing I left to the world. - During a debate on human organ transplants, February 1984

Taken from "The Wit & Wisdom of Tony Banks", compiled by Iain Dale and published by Robson Books

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