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Blog | By Annabel Sampson | Mar 17, 2017

Matthew Parris, Roy Hattersley and David Owen headlined Tuesday’s Lit Lunch. Tickets sold like hotcakes and the event reached brimful capacity three months in advance. 

Matthew Parris explored the darker side of the human language in his anthology of put-downs, Scorn. He delivered a dazzling compendium of the wittiest and wickedest insults - from Twitter to Shakespeare to Latin insults from the forum of Ancient Rome.

“May you forever be plagued by rail replacement buses” was Parris’s brilliant example of an ancient curse brought up to date.

A few more of the best one-liners:

‘The most eminent mediocrity in the party’ - Trotsky on Stalin

‘You scullion. You rampallian. You fustilarian. I’ll tickle your catastrophe’ - Falstaff in Henry IV Part 2.

'You're as ugly as a salad.' Bulgarian insult

'I'm going to beat him so bad he'll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.' Muhammad Ali

Here is Michael Gove’s tweet several weeks after last year’s referendum: 'We need to renegotiate a new relationship with the EU, based on free trade and friendly cooperation.’

And here are the tweeted responses:

'You can't REnegotiate something NEW you boil-in-the-bag rent-a-clown.' @PULPketchup.

‘We had one, and you helped destroy it; you are one confused bag of mince.’ @Mr_Dave_Haslam 

Roy Hattersley talked about his book, Catholics – The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day.

Hattersley explained the survival of Catholicism over the centuries, using previously unpublished material. He put the church's resilience down to its lack of compromise, ‘a characteristic that excites admiration in even the hardened atheist’.

David Owen regaled the audience with tales from his book Cabinet’s Finest Hour: The Hidden Agenda of May 1940. The book tells the story of the pivotal coalition War Cabinet meetings of May 1940. The meeting minutes reveal just how close Britain came to seeking a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany; and how Churchill was determined to carry on with the fight rather than seek a settlement with Hitler.

ANNABEL SAMPSON, @annabel_sampson.