Daily Express, Monday, December 21, 1903

Poem 48

(Attribution uncertain)


The Parrot is dead.

He has succumbed to ridicule. At first his Cobden friends supported him nobly. His absurd cry, “Your food will cost you more,” sounded on many platforms. But even the Freest Fooder has now abandoned it, not because he fears to misrepresent facts, but because he knows he will be laughed at. 1

The parrot competition was another severe shock to our old friend. He observed that the nation was jeering at his lying motto. The success of the competition proved it.

So he died.

It is to be hoped that no further burst of fiscal fiction from the Cobdenites will cause him to rise, phœnix-like, from his ashes. Requiescat in pace! 2


When the Parrot, hale and hearty,
First addressed the Free Food party
With his parrot-cry triumphant
They demanded an encore;
For they held no motto dearer,
Nothing easier nor clearer,
Than his wonderful misstatement
That “Your food will cost you more.

Wheresoe’er they held a meeting
Speakers cried the parrot greeting
To the Little England people
Who the Cobden Club adore.
’Twas the string which all were certain
Was to drop the voting curtain
On the heads of those denying
That “Your food will cost you more.

But our “Joe,” at length uprising
In his wrath at this devising
Of a parrot cry which honest
Folks did earnestly deplore,
Proved their facts to be but fiction,
Lies concealed in courtly diction,
For in future not a penny
Would our food be costing more.

And the bird, from this exposure,
To his life has put the closure,
For attack he rather fancied,
But he dreaded a guffaw;
And he couldn’t stand the laughing
And the Parrot Shows and chaffing
Which resulted from his motto
That “Your food will cost you more.

If you see a ghostly Polly, 3
Most repentant of his folly,
Where the Cobden Club assembles
Sitting just above the door,
’Tis our friend, now sadly rueing
All the evil he’s been doing,
For this disembodied Parrot



There was a strong element of wishful thinking about this statement, and future events were to prove it thoroughly mistaken. Balfour’s government never fully recovered from the effects of the resignation crisis in September 1903 and the loss of so many senior ministers. Balfour confounded his critics both within the Unionist party and in the Opposition and managed to hold his government together for another two years, but the chorus of “Your food will cost you more” never went away. In December 1905, Balfour finally resigned and the King invited Campbell-Bannerman to form a government. Campbell-Bannerman did so, but immediately asked the King to dissolve parliament. At the ensuing general election, in January 1905, the Unionists were trounced. Balfour was one of those who lost his seat, and a by-election had to be hurriedly arranged to enable him to get back into parliament.


Latin: May he rest in peace (more commonly seen in its abbreviated form, “R.I.P.”)


The “ghostly Polly” reappeared a week later, in the playlet A Fiscal Pantomime: The Sleeping Beauty, co-written by B. Fletcher Robinson and P. G. Wodehouse, in which the part of A Ghost is played by “The Parrot”.

[Note: This playlet has recently been reprinted, in the collection Bobbles & Plum: Four Satirical Playlets, compiled by Paul R. Spiring (2009), wherein it is dated as 25 December 1903; it actually appeared in the Daily Express on Monday, 28 December.]