Is Boris Johnson the most unsuitable foreign secretary Britain has ever had? No. That title belongs to George Brown, the dypso deputy leader of the Labour Party at the end of the ’60s. Private Eye coined the phrase “tired and emotional”, meaning blind drunk, after Brown publicly insulted the wife of the British ambassador to France, Sir Patrick Reilly, at a dinner party at the French embassy in London in 1968.
Brown once boasted that “many Members of Parliament drink and womanise – now, I’ve never womanised”. That was true, but he did once approach a striking figure at a reception in the Foreign Office to ask for a dance. The resplendent individual rejected the minister’s advances explaining to Brown that he was drunk, the music was not a waltz but the Peruvian national anthem, and that he was not a beautiful lady in red as Brown seemed to aver but the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.
Beat that Boris.
• A Journey Through Manchester’s Political History. Guided tour, Fri 29 July 2016, 12pm from the People’s History Museum.