Great Moments In Parliament

3 comments October 7th, 2007at 10:55am Posted by Eli

Today’s NYT Magazine has a feature about how gray squirrels imported from the US are outcompeting and wiping out the native red squirrels. The story focuses on efforts to kill grays so the much-beloved reds (see: Squirrel Nutkin) can rebound. The highlight is this impassioned plea on the floor of the House Of Lords:

Earl Peel rose to call attention to the decline in numbers of the reds and its significance. “To many,” he said, “the red squirrel represents an integral part of our woodland landscape — an iconic creature, immortalized by Beatrix Potter, through the charismatic character of Squirrel Nutkin.” But before turning his attention to Squirrel Nutkin, Earl Peel proposed conducting “a brief health check” of various other Beatrix Potter characters. “Starting with Tabitha Twitchit and Tom Kitten” — both cats — “they are truly on top of their game. . . . Let us now consider the status of Mr. Tod, the fox. On second thoughts, given that he has taken up 700 hours of parliamentary time, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to prolong the debate.” He went on: “That brings me on seamlessly to the other really controversial character that graced the class of 1912 — and that of course is Tommy Brock,” Potter’s badger. “Hasn’t he done well?”

Peel continued: “Despite suffering from and carrying tuberculosis, he has successfully managed to establish himself in the hearts and minds of the nation as being more important than dairy cows or, indeed, farmers’ livelihoods, and like Mr. Tod, has managed to secure his very own legislation.”

Peel concluded his health check: “Squirrel Nutkin must look back on his alma mater and think to himself, ‘How could it have all gone so wretchedly wrong for me?’ ”

But what of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle? Does no-one care about Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle?

The lordly brilliance does not end there, however:

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, the 21st to hold that title in Scotland, then spoke to point out the inherent superiority of the red over the gray squirrel: “Red squirrels,” she said, “are rather like quiet, well-behaved people who do not make a nuisance or an exhibition of themselves or commit crimes and so do not get themselves into the papers in the vulgar way gray squirrels do.” She continued: “Red squirrels do not strip bark from trees; damage arable crops, market gardens and garden plants; dig up bulb and corms from recently sown seed; eat birds’ eggs; or eat telephone wires and electricity cables, as gray squirrels do.” Lady Saltoun suggested some research be done on whether gray squirrels tasted good. She foresaw a fight at the dinner table: “I have a nasty feeling that . . . children in particular would say, ‘Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly eat that,’ just as they say they cannot eat dear little bunny rabbits. But this is worth having a look at.”

The fundamental problem with the gray squirrels is that they do not know their place. And children are too wimpy and soft-hearted to eat adorable rodents.

Entry Filed under: Quotes,Weirdness


  • 1. Ruth  |  October 7th, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Shoot if you must this old grey head,
    but spare Squirrel Nutkin, please

    they said.

    In D.C., the black squirrels from Canada are popping up everywhere. See, they are down in the ‘hood breeding like …. rabbits.

  • 2. Cavalor Epthith, Esquire  |  October 7th, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I think you have quite nailed this one. On its merits the gray squirrel is the tastier of the two if the proper care in preparing the gravy is taken.

  • 3. ellroon  |  October 9th, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Damned squirrels….

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