Well there you are!!
‘He who wields the knife never wears the crown.’ It’s one of the great political cliches trotted out whenever the leader of a party comes under threat.
But, asks a reader*, where does the saying come from? Is it Shakespeare? The answer to the second question is straightforward: no, it’s not Shakespeare. Nor, so far as we can ascertain, has it any literary heritage at all.
It first became common currency in 1990 when Michael Heseltine challenged Margaret Thatcher, the incumbent prime minister. He defeated her, of course, removed her from office, but was then unable to build on his success, and saw the tortoise-like shape of John Major come ambling past him to snatch away the leadership of the Conservative Party.
And, indeed, the saying seems to originate with Heseltine himself. But not in 1990. He first said it in February 1986, the month after he had walked out of the cabinet –…
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