The Top 10: Surreptitious political recordings

John Rentoul

This started with Pete Willsman, the first on the list. I didn’t include accidental recordings, with microphones left on, such as John Major’s “bastards”, George W Bush’s “Yeah, Blair”* or Gordon Brown’s “bigoted woman”.

1. Pete Willsman: “They can falsify social media very easily.” Member of Labour’s National Executive ranted at its meeting in July about the 68 rabbis who complained to the party about antisemitism among members. His comments were reported, but it wasn’t until the recording became public that he was removed from the Momentum slate of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. He was re-elected this month nevertheless.

2. Paul Mason: Jeremy Corbyn “doesn’t appeal to the mainstream working class vote”. In a cafe in Liverpool at Labour conference in 2016, the Corbyn-supporting journalist was recorded saying the Labour leader should be replaced by Clive Lewis, the Norwich South MP. Thanks to Anna Rhodes.

3. Donald Trump: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Video recorded in 2005 that surfaced a month before the 2016 presidential election. Nominated by Matthew Hoffman.

4. Mitt Romney: “Forty-seven per cent.” At a private fundraiser in the 2012 presidential campaign he said 47 per cent of the people would vote for Barack Obama “no matter what”, because they were “dependent upon government”. Nominated by Graham Kirby and Omer Lev. “Especially good since it was done by a member of the waiting staff who was disgusted by what he was hearing,” said Tom Doran.

5. Vince Cable: “I have declared war on Mr Murdoch.” The business secretary was stripped of his responsibility for media takeovers in 2010 after boasting to undercover reporters posing as constituents. Thanks to Claire Ellicott.

6. Howard Flight: “The start.” Deputy chair of the Conservative Party repeated Oliver Letwin’s error at the previous election of telling a private meeting of Conservative Way Forward in 2005 the party’s planned cuts in public spending of £35bn would only be “the start”. Michael Howard, the Tory leader, sacked him and stopped him standing again as an MP. Nominated by Jonathan Isaby.

7. Oliver Letwin: “Tactical disagreement.” The shadow chancellor went into hiding in the 2001 election campaign after Labour recorded him at a tax-cutting think tank saying he had only a “tactical disagreement” with an economist who wanted to cut public spending by 10 per cent of GDP.

8. Monica Lewinsky: taped by Linda Tripp, an older colleague at the Pentagon public affairs office, where Lewinsky worked after she was an intern at the White House. Tripp handed the tapes to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel investigating Bill Clinton, in 1998. Thanks to Graham Kirby and Roxanne Escobales.

9. Richard Nixon: a special case, of a US president who incriminated himself by secretly recording himself and his aides. The tapes and transcripts were made public in 1974, months before he resigned to pre-empt impeachment proceedings over Watergate.

10. Adolf Hitler: “I would rather have three or four teeth pulled than sit through another conversation with Franco.” After their only meeting in 1940, Hitler confided his views to Benito Mussolini, which came to light years later in the diplomatic papers of Count G Ciano, the Italian foreign minister, according to Robert Boston.

*I will go to my grave insisting it was “yeah” not “yo”. Listen here.

Next week: Adjectives used only of women, to commemorate Carrie Symonds, described by some newspapers as “flirty”

Coming soon: Fluffed lines, in memory of Vince Cable, who delivered “erotic spasm” as “exotic spresm” in his Lib Dem conference speech

The book of Top 10s, Listellany, is still available as an e-book for £4.74

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