Turkeys voting for Christmas

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Turkeys voting for Christmas is an English idiom used as a metaphor or simile (in the construct "like turkeys voting for Christmas") in reference to a suicidal ("death-wish"[1]) political act, especially a vote. In the United Kingdom, turkeys are customarily eaten on Christmas Day dating back to 1573 when they became part of the English Christmas dinner.[2]

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations writes that a commentator in the Independent Magazine traced the origin of the phrase to British Liberal Party politician David Penhaligon,[1] who is quoted as saying: "Us voting for the Pact is like a turkey voting for Christmas" in reference to the Lib-Lab Pact which he opposed.[3]

The phrase was soon borrowed by other politicians and public figures.[1] In particular, British MP Teresa Gorman, who opposed the Maastricht Treaty, stated; "If the House of Commons voted for Maastricht it would be like 651 turkeys voting for Christmas."[4] When confronted over time spent on luxury by United Kingdom Independence Party MEPs, Nigel Farage responded by saying that "we are the turkeys that would vote for Christmas".[5]


  1. ^ a b c "Oxford dictionary of humorous quotations", by Ned Sherrin, Oxford University Press, Edition 4, 2008, ISBN 0-19-923716-6, "Introduction to the first edition"
  2. ^ John Harland (1858). The house and farm accounts of the Shuttleworths of Gawthorpe Hall in the county of Lancaster at Smithils and Gawthorpe: from September 1582 to October 1621. p.1059. Chetham society,
  3. ^ "The pact: the inside story of the Lib-Lab government, 1977-8", by Alistair Michie, Simon Hoggart, Quartet Books, 1978, p. 156
  4. ^ "Billericay: The Dame who didn't give a damn...", Daily Gazette, 18 February 2000[dead link]
  5. ^ "Question Time with Nigel Farage, Grant Shapps, Chuka Umunna, Shirley Williams and Caroline Lucas". The Guardian.