John O’Dowd had a difference of opinion with the TUV’s Jim Allister up in Stormont the other day. Allister referred to him as “Her Majesty’s Minister for Education”. “I am not Her Majesty’s Minister for Education” O’Dowd told the once-potent threat to the DUP. “I am the people’s Minister for Education, a title of which I am proud”.
The British House of Commons appears to adopt Allister’s more genuflecting line. Tomorrow is Prince Philip’s 90th birthday and the British MPs were doing some truly sad grovelling, sending their “humble congratulations” to “His Royal Highness” on the great achievement of having lived so long. This was backed up by lots of side-splitting memories of His Royal Highness’s wit, such as the time he asked a man what he did, the man said he was a trade union representative and Prince Philip (oh my aching sides!) replied “You do bugger all, in other words.”
He’s always been witty at others’ expense. There’s the famous remark on the Chinese tour when he told some students “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed”, and his Wildean barb to a blind woman with a guide-dog: “Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?”
He started life as Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, but when he married Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he changed his name to hers. Odd, but there you are. Fortunately, by this time Elizabeth A M had changed her name to Windsor (no nodding off at the back, please), so the chance of combining the two names into Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was, sad to say, lost. Meanwhile, three of Philip’s brothers-in-law were busy sucking up to the Nazis but then so was Elizabeth’s uncle Edward. It wasn’t from the wind Harry got that fancy-dress idea.
But let’s not mention the war, or at least not that one. There’s no denying the man from Greece is today in great shape for his age, and the fact that his idea of work is to walk behind the wife on some eighty days in the year, hands behind his back, passing the occasional racist or sexist remark to people who can’t answer back, probably has nothing to do with it. Bet he’s glad he left Greece, though.