Fresh from hearing down at Gloucester
Mr Lawyer Asquith foster
Old and ancient views of trading— 1
Trading in the days of yore—
Came the Parrot swift returning,
And I found that he’d been learning
Other words beside his motto,
That “Your food will cost you more.”

Said I, “From your happy fervour
Any casual observer
Might infer your self-assurance
Was more blatant than before.”
“Sir”, he scowled, “I’d have it noted
I’m the bird that Asquith quoted— 2
Quoted in the kindest manner—
Saying, ‘Food will cost you more.’”

“Bird”, I said, “restrain your ardour,
For these lies about the larder
Are become a joke for voters.”
But my words he did ignore.
“Let”, he squawked, “the world remember
Asquith has become a member
Of the Order of the Parrot,
Saying, ‘Food will cost you more.’”

“Bird”, I said, “he dodged the issue—
Raising up a fiscal tissue
Of misstatements, sneers, and catchwords,
Such as we must all deplore.”
But the bird continued flying
Down the street and loudly crying:
“What price ‘Joe’?—when me and Asquith
Say ‘Your food will cost you more!’”


H H Asquith (1852-1928) was a leading member of the Liberal Party. He qualified as a barrister in 1876 and had a prosperous legal career in the 1880s (hence the poem’s “Lawyer Asquith”), before entering politics. He was elected to parliament as the member for East Fife in 1886 and served as Home Secretary under Gladstone from 1892-1895. He was leader of the Liberal Party from 1908 to 1926 and was Prime Minister between 1908 and 1916.

On 8 October 1903, Asquith addressed a meeting of Liberals at Cinderford, Gloucestershire. He devoted most of his speech to criticising Chamberlain’s proposals for preferential tariffs, which he described as “involving a tax upon the necessary food of the people of the United Kingdom”.


Asquith did not mention the Parrot, nor is that what “quoted” is intended to suggest. Throughout the poems, whenever the Parrot refers to having been “quoted”, he is to be understood as meaning that the speaker in question has used the “parrot phrase”—that is, any variant of “a tax on food”.

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