Grant Shapps' 'over firm' denial joins famous political euphemisms

Grant Shapps' 'over firm' denial joins famous political euphemisms Credit: PA/Reuters

Politicians are not best known for calling a spade a spade and this morning Grant Shapps attracted attention for his admission that he had "over firmly" denied having a second job in parliament.

Here are some more famous political euphemisms:

  • "Economical with the truth" - popularised in 1986 by then-Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong during the Spycatcher trial in Australia when he told the court it was different to a lie, it was more of a "misleading impression"

  • "Terminological inexactitude" - introduced in 1906 by Winston Churchill. In a discussion on slavery, he said: "that word in its full sense could not be applied without a risk of terminological inexactitude"

  • "I was obliged to correct him in a robust way" - Boris Johnson describes a four-letter tirade against Ken Livingstone

  • "Tired and emotional" - another way of saying "drunk" made popular in 1967 by the Private Eye. The satirical magazine used it to describe Labour Cabinet minister George Brown's apparently intoxicated state

  • "Spend more time with my family" - Margaret Thatcher's employment secretary Norman Fowler gave the reason for his 1990 resignation amid rumours of a rift in the party. Fowler returned to politics just two years later and the phrase has become synonymous with excusing a difficult departure

'I did misspeak' - Hillary Clinton Credit: Reuters
  • "I did misspeak" - Hillary Clinton's famous 2008 explanation for her inaccurate claim that she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire in 1996

  • "Operative statement" - Richard Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler became famous for saying: "This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative" which, when translated, means these are the occasions when the President has told the truth, these are the lies.

  • "Peacekeeper" - What Ronald Reagan renamed the controversial multiple- warhead MX missile

  • "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" - What South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's spokesman said he had been doing when he disappeared for six days in 2009 - he had been with his mistress

  • "Watching badgers" - In 2003 the former Secretary of State for Wales denied a Sun newspaper story that claimed to have caught him engaged in a sex act with a stranger at a picnic spot, claiming instead that he had been "watching badgers"