Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

“Keep your hair on,” by John Mullan, from

;On Thursday, Yvette Cooper, junior minister in the Lord Chancellor’s Department, was speaking in the Commons about the possibility of introducing weekend voting in general elections. Implying that this might be a way of increasing turnout, she said, “For people who go to work and have kids, finding time to vote on a busy Thursday can be a real hassle” … “Exercising one’s democratic rights and going out to vote should not be a hassle.” Unexceptionable sentiments, you might think. But her diction had a galvanising effect on slumbering Conservative Members of Parliament. When she spoke of ensuring “hassle-free elections” there were furious cries of “Slang!” “Slang!” The rabble now roused, the barracking increased and a Tory voice (alleged to have been Nicholas Soames) began calling “Boy! Boy! Sit down boy!” (This witty outcry being based on the extraordinary fact that Ms Cooper has her hair cut short.)

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Grant Barrett