Voices: The Top 10 political sayings about meat

The plan to rescue Boris Johnson’s premiership was dubbed Operation Red Meat (Getty)
The plan to rescue Boris Johnson’s premiership was dubbed Operation Red Meat (Getty)

Another list suggested by the high priest of Twitter trivia, David Mills. There are a lot of idiomatic phrases often used in politics, such as chicken coup, chicken run, oven ready, gravy train, but here are 10 specific quotations.

1. “If you ever have to form a government, you must steel your nerves, and act the butcher.” William Gladstone, according to HH Asquith.

2. “This is the one that brings home the bacon.” Paul Keating, Australian treasurer, of his 1988 budget. Nominated by John Foreman.

3. “Where’s the beef?” Walter “Fritz” Mondale quoted the Wendy’s hamburger slogan against Gary Hart, rival Democratic candidate, 1984. From David Mills.

4. Operation Red Meat. Plan to rescue Boris Johnson’s premiership, launched in January 2022 (he was gone six months later). Thanks to Lucy Beresford.

5. Pork-barrel politics: phrase used to describe politicians who distribute funds for the benefit of their followers or constituents, nominated by Robert Boston. Joe Twyman at Deltapoll surveyed the British public and found that only 1 per cent of adults in this country know what it means.

6. “Beef and Liberty!” The slogan of the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks, established 1735, whose members included Samuel Johnson and the Prince of Wales (later George IV). Nominated by Dinah Rose.

7. “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” Often attributed to Bismarck, but there is no evidence he said it: the earliest reference in print quoted John Godfrey Saxe, an American poet, in The Daily Cleveland Herald in 1869. Thanks to Richard Troth.

8. “Like being savaged by a dead sheep.” Denis Healey’s put-down of Geoffrey Howe. Nominated by Ed Dorrell.

9. “The first time in recorded history that turkeys have been known to vote for an early Christmas.” James Callaghan, attacking the nationalists and Liberals for doing Margaret Thatcher’s bidding in the confidence debate, 28 March 1979. “The minority parties have walked into a trap. If they win, there will be a general election.” Nominated by Dan Frank and Tom Peck.

10. “‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!” Winston Churchill, quoting Marshal Philippe Petain of France, Ottawa, 30 December 1941. Thanks to Adrian Jenkins and John Peters.

No room, then, for “Opening up pork markets”, Liz Truss’s rallying cry nominated by Ian McRobert, Lisa O’Connor, Tim Forward Not Back and Anthony Polson.

There is always one, and this week it is Huw Harries, who nominated “steak holder”. Sometimes there are two, and this week the second is alexblac, who nominated the Rump Parliament.

Next week: Points, starting with Point Nemo, the location furthest from land in the world’s oceans.

Coming soon: Great history songs, starting with “Sympathy for the Devil”.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to