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 an apparently suicidal ("death-wish"[1]) choice, especially a political vote. In modern times, in the United Kingdom, turkeys are commonly eaten as part of the English Christmas dinner. Since 1573 they have been available in the UK at Christmas.[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 MEP, Nigel Farage responded by saying that "we are the turkeys that would vote for Christmas".[5][not in citation given] In the U.S., there are bumper stickers saying that people voting for the GOP are like "chickens voting for Colonel Sanders". In Canada, the story of Mouseland has mice voting for cats.


  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.