Tony Banks has died, unexpectedly, while on holiday in Florida. We’ll miss him: he was one of the few genuinely funny men in British politics. There’s a rather po-faced Obituary in the Guardian which doesn’t do him justice.
Banks could be fabulously rude. He once said of a Tory MP (I think it was Terry Dix) that he was living proof that “a pig’s bladder on a stick could be elected to Parliament”. His advice to a new MP was to “remember that your opponents are in the other party; your enemies are in your own”. For some of us, his greatest quality was his capacity to make Margaret Thatcher incoherent with rage when she was trying to kill the Greater London Council, of which he was (with Ken Livingstone) a leading light.
The Guardian obit quotes one of his most celebrated parliamentary interventions:
In a debate on organ transplants shortly after the Tory minister Cecil Parkinson [a Thatcher favourite] had been involved in a sex scandal, he asked: “May I put in a bid for Cecil’s plonker – one careful owner.”
As he said about himself: “Good taste was never one of my qualifications”. Life will be duller without him.