Daily Express, Saturday, October 3, 1903

Poem 16

(Attribution uncertain)



  [Sir H. “C.-B.” 1 at Bolton gave no serious arguments, no facts and figures, but attacked Mr. Chamberlain’s proposals with such phrases as “Most reckless states­manship—a wicked slander—a monstrous assertion—the depth of political profligacy—a game of bluff.” 2]


Once again the Parrot waited
On the fence that he vacated,
Just to startle folks at Bolton
With ill prophecies galore.
He seemed confident of nothing,
Save that somebody was bluffing,
And that somehow it would happen
That “Your food will cost you more.”

He was reasonably certain
We were ringing down the curtain
On the Empire, and that trouble
Most unpleasant was in store:
While his personal opinions
On our oversea dominions
Were displayed in his assertion
That “Your food will cost you more.”

Said I, “Pardon the suggestion,
But when speaking on a question,
Do you think that it’s convincing
Facts and figures to ignore? 3
Language largely adjectival
Will not aid in the revival
Of the fast-decaying libel
That ‘Your food will cost you more.’

“If your fence you must abandon,
Find some firmer ground to stand on,
For a string of strong invective
Will not win the fiscal war. 4
And the man who starts abusing
Is the man who feels he’s losing.”
But the bird so stodgy-podgy
Said “Your food will cost you more.”



Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836–1908) (pictured) was a Liberal politician. He served as Secretary of State for War under Gladstone and Rosebery. He became Prime Minister in December 1905 but resigned because of ill health in April 1908, and died less than three weeks later.


Campbell-Bannerman addressed a meeting of Liberal supporters in the Grand Theatre, Bolton, on 15 October 1903. The phrases attributed to him are mostly taken from a passage in his speech in which he condemned the behaviour of Joseph Chamberlain.


Campbell-Bannerman told the meeting: “I do not intend to overwhelm you with statistics. Statistics have been given abundantly and effectively, and I think the country has begun to digest them.”


The Times began its editorial on the speech: “Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman has been a long time in public life, but he has not learned the elementary lesson that the violent expression of private prejudices and antipathies is not quite the same thing as argument. He lost his temper yesterday somewhere on the way to Bolton, and a large part of his speech consisted of ranting and scolding.”