In days gone by (2006) when Hugo Swire was in opposition, debating funds for the BBC with the then Minister Tessa Jowell, a report by Simon Jenkins, political commentator:
” … Tessa Jowell has been lucky in her opponents. Yesterday she made a statement to the Commons about the new white paper on the BBC. …
… Then up sprang Ms Jowell’s opposite number, Hugo Swire, the Tory MP and a scion of – Eton! St Andrews! The Grenadier Guards! His clubs are White’s, Pratt’s and the Beefsteak. It seems unlikely that he dashes home from these establishments to catch EastEnders.
In our egalitarian times there are some MPs who would hesitate to mention all this, but Mr Swire is made of the stuff that built the Empire. Sadly his vocabulary is made from the stuff that built the Wobbly Bridge over the Thames. It shakes alarmingly, and is an object of scorn.
Why had the white paper had the same gestation time as an elephant? Why not? I thought. Would it have been preferable if it had the same gestation period as, say, a wombat? He swerved at a new metaphor. The paper was meant to be a springboard. “But it is not so much a launching pad as a holding pen!”
Nowadays, “is it credible to believe that a compulsory tax on the ownership of a television set [Mr Swire pronounces every single letter: ‘tell-eh-viss-ee-on’] is the right way to fund our national broadcaster?”
At this point a Labour MP, goaded beyond endurance, shouted “Drivel!” Mr Swire was undaunted. “Will the BBC Trust have the capacity to clip the wings of Auntie?” he asked, and we had a vision of the old lady rushing round while trustees, or perhaps Mr Swire himself, pursued her with shears.
He moved on to the notion of selling Britain abroad and to the British. “The chancellor wants to see a flagpole in every garden; is there now not a danger that this will be followed by a Union Jack on every TV aerial in the land?”
He might have got away with this, but he had to follow it by saying “Jesting apart!”
When did anyone last say that? That was jesting? Labour MPs laughed merrily. The BBC brass, sitting, anxious, in the gallery, began to relax.
“The bill for the BBC is higher than the GDP of Mongolia!” he announced, to tucks of laughter from almost everyone.
That’s not surprising. Mongolia is a very poor, yurt and yoghurt-intensive country. Britain is 20 times bigger, we live in houses, and can afford to eat mango flavoured yoghurt while watching our excellent TV service.”