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The Top 10: Numerical nicknames of politicians

From Two Jags and Third Degree Burns to Ten Cents Jimmy, a selection of number-based terms of endearment or otherwise

John Rentoul
Sunday 26 August 2018 09:40
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Henry Pelham, prime minister 1743-54, known as ‘King Henry the Ninth’
Henry Pelham, prime minister 1743-54, known as ‘King Henry the Ninth’

This one was first suggested two years ago (these ideas need time to mature), when I, prompted by another slide in the pound, recalled the time in 1985 when the press tried to call Nigel Lawson, the chancellor, “Ninety-cent Nigel”. It never really caught on.

1. First Shopper. Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert Mugabe, former president of Zimbabwe. “Rose through the ranks of ZANU-PF from secretary to head of women’s wing; unbridled extravagance led to the nickname,” said Robert Boston.

2. Two Jags Prescott. Former deputy prime minister John Prescott already owned a Jaguar when he acquired a ministerial one. Or David “Two Brains” Willetts, the former universities minister. Nominations from Dermot O’Riordan, Matthew Bailey, Adrian McMenamin and Esther Webber.

3. Third Degree Burns. Simon Burns, former health minister and transport minister, who obtained a third-class degree in history at Oxford. Nominated by Chris Jones and Graham Kirby. Or Three Bottle Man: William Pitt the Younger, prime minister at the age of 24, known for his consumption of port. Thanks to Mr Memory, Broken Columns and Ross Allen. Or Three Jobs Bob, as Bob Neill was known when he was a Conservative councillor, Greater London Authority member and MP. Or Mr Three Minutes, nickname of Jacques Chirac, the French president, which was supposed to include the shower. From Graham Kirby.

4. Ninepence for Fourpence. David Lloyd George as chancellor introduced National Insurance in 1911, calling it “ninepence for fourpence” (4d from the employee, 3d from the employer, and 2d from the government). David Boothroyd said it became his nickname.

5. Half-Baked Alaskan. Sarah Palin, ninth governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for vice president, 2008. Robert Boston again.

6. William “14 Pints” Hague. From the boast about his youthful drinking by the former leader of the Conservative Party. Nominated by Daniel Forman and Graham Kirby.

7. Forty-one and 43. How the two president George Bushes refer to each other, according to Will Cooling, Chris Jones and Graham Kirby.

8. Eight Homes Huhne. Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem energy secretary in the coalition government until 2012, who made a bit of money in the City before going into politics. Thanks to Xlibris1.

9. King Henry the Ninth. Nickname of Henry Pelham, the powerful third prime minister of Britain, nominated by Mr Memory and Ross Allen. ‏

10. Ten Cents Jimmy. James Buchanan, 15th US President, because he said 10 cents a day was a decent wage. Went down badly, apparently. Thanks to Graham Kirby and Ross Allen. Or Ten Foot Timms: Stephen Timms, the tall former chief secretary to the Treasury.

I nearly abandoned this list when someone nominated Liz “Four Point Five Per Cent” Kendall (her share of the vote in the 2015 Labour leadership election).

Next week: Mnemonics, such as “My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets”

Coming soon: Proposed unions of countries, such as Egypt and Syria, which formed the notional United Arab Republic from 1958 to 1971

The book of Top 10s, Listellany, is available for £4.74 (e-book)

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to top10@independent.co.uk

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