According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the 17th century the term “humpty dumpty” referred to a drink of brandy boiled with ale. The riddle probably exploited, for misdirection, the fact that “humpty dumpty” was also eighteenth-century reduplicative slang for a short and clumsy person. The riddle may depend upon the assumption that a clumsy person falling off a wall might not be irreparably damaged, whereas an egg would be. The rhyme is no longer posed as a riddle, since the answer is now so well known. Similar riddles have been recorded by folklorists in other languages, such as “Boule Boule” in French, “Lille Trille” in Swedish and Norwegian, and “Runtzelken-Puntzelken” or “Humpelken-Pumpelken” in different parts of Germany—although none is as widely known as Humpty Dumpty is in English.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
The rhyme does not explicitly state that the subject is an egg, possibly because it may have been originally posed as a riddle. There are also various theories of an original “Humpty Dumpty”. One, advanced by Katherine Elwes Thomas in 193 and adopted by Robert Ripley, posits that Humpty Dumpty is King Richard III of England, depicted as humpbacked in Tudor histories and particularly in Shakespeare’s play, and who was defeated, despite his armies, at Bosworth Field in 1485.
Professor David Daube suggested in The Oxford Magazine of 16 February 1956 that Humpty Dumpty was a “tortoise” siege engine, an armoured frame, used unsuccessfully to approach the walls of the Parliamentary held city of Gloucester in 1643 during the Siege of Gloucester in the English Civil War. This was on the basis of a contemporary account of the attack, but without evidence that the rhyme was connected. The theory was part of an anonymous series of articles on the origin of nursery rhymes and was widely acclaimed in academia, but it was derided by others as “ingenuity for ingenuity’s sake” and declared to be a spoof. The link was nevertheless popularised by a children’s opera All the King’s Men by Richard Rodney Bennett, first performed in 1969.
From 1996, the website of the Colchester tourist board attributed the origin of the rhyme to a cannon recorded as used from the church of St Mary-at-the-Wall by the Royalist defenders in the siege of 1648. In 1648, Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. The story given was that a large cannon, which the website claimed was colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall. A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty, which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists (or Cavaliers, “all the King’s men”) attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall, but the cannon was so heavy that “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. Author Albert Jack claimed in his 2008 book Pop Goes the Weasel: The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes that there were two other verses supporting this claim. Elsewhere, he claimed to have found them in an “old dusty library, [in] an even older book” but did not state what the book was or where it was found. It has been pointed out that the two additional verses are not in the style of the seventeenth century or of the existing rhyme, and that they do not fit with the earliest printed versions of the rhyme, which do not mention horses and men.
Results: Con 28%, Lab 27%, Lib Dem 20%, Brexit Party 13%, Green 5%.
SAMPLE SIZE: 2,009 interviews.
WHAT IT SHOWED: This slight outlier of a poll shows Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck as the parties head into the conference season.
Results: Con 37%, Lab 25%, Lib Dem 16%, Brexit Party 13%, Green 2%.
SAMPLE SIZE: 2,002 interviews.
WHAT IT SHOWED: Labour trail the Conservatives by 12 in the week Boris Johnson suspended Parliament. But despite performances like this Labour believe that opinion will move dramatically when an election is called – and voters’ minds are focussed.
Congress, thank you for that warm welcome. It’s an honour to be asked to address you again. I’m proud that trade unions and the Labour Party are working as closely together now as we ever have. Because together we are one movement – the labour movement, the greatest force for progressive change this country has ever known.
So thank you to every single one of you for what you do, for your members and for our society. And thank you to Frances O’Grady for your work as the TUC’s General Secretary. You are a brilliant voice in standing up for workers.
I want to pay special thanks too to TUC President Mark Serwotka. Mark, you are one of the most dedicated and one of the bravest trade union leaders we’ve ever had and you’re a walking advertisement for our wonderful NHS.
Your union, PCS, is doing brilliant work representing workers at the BEIS Department in Whitehall, some of whom were here yesterday, and who have been on strike for two months now, because the Government won’t pay them the living wage. Solidarity to them. I also want to send solidarity to the occupying workers at Harland & Wolff, some of whom have joined us here today.
Congress, this time last week the Conservatives and DUP had a majority of one in the House of Commons. Last time I checked their majority was down to -45.
Today Parliament stands empty, shut down by a Prime Minister running away from scrutiny. But let me say this. We mustn’t mistake the drama at Westminster for what real politics is about.
What truly matters to people isn’t resignations, defections and late night votes in parliament. For most people all of that is a million miles away.
What truly matters is the reality of their everyday lives – in their community, on the streets, at their workplace.
Real politics for me isn’t about the parliamentary knockabout with all its baffling language and procedures. Real politics is about giving power to people who don’t have a lot of money and don’t have friends in high places so they can take control of their own lives.
Boris Johnson’s political strategy is perfectly clear. He wants to stage a showdown over a No Deal Brexit that he can repackage as a battle between parliament and the people – with the people in this melodrama played by none other than that man of the people – Boris Johnson himself.
But the idea that Johnson and his wealthy friends and backers somehow represent the people is truly absurd. Johnson and his hard right cabinet are not only on the side of the establishment, they are the establishment.
And this Tory government isn’t so different from any other Tory government: they will help the rich get richer and make working class people pay.
Johnson’s reckless No Deal would destroy jobs, push up food prices in the shops and cause shortages of everyday medicines that people rely on. And who bears the cost of that? It wouldn’t be Johnson and his wealthy friends. It’s not their livelihoods on the line. It would be the rest of us.
Just as it wasn’t the bankers Boris Johnson still defends who paid the price for the financial crash of 2008, it was tens of millions of people who had nothing to do with it.
For the Tories this is about so much more than leaving the European Union. It’s about hijacking the referendum result to shift even more power and wealth to those at the top. They will use a no deal crash to push through policies that benefit them and their super-rich supporters and hurt everyone else – just as they did after the financial crash.
Under the cover of no deal they will sell off our public services, strip away the regulations that keep us safe, and undermine workers’ rights. And they will cement all of this in a race-to-the-bottom trade deal with Donald Trump.
Be in no doubt – a No Deal Brexit is really a Trump Deal Brexit, leading to a one-sided US trade deal negotiated from a position of weakness.
It will put us at the mercy of Trump and the big US corporations itching to get their teeth further into our NHS, sound the death knell for our steel industry and permanently drive down rights and protections for workers. I am not prepared to stand by and let that happen.
And we won’t be importing so called ‘right-to-work’ laws from the US – an Orwellian name if ever I heard one – or any other union busting laws being opposed by our comrades in American unions that Trump will want to impose on British workers.
A Trump Deal Brexit would be a betrayal of the generations of workers who went before, who fought so hard to win the rights and build the public services that bind our society together.
That’s their legacy, their gift to us. We’re not going to let Boris Johnson trade it all away for a sweetheart deal with Trump. That’s why our priority is first to stop No Deal and then to trigger a general election.
Amber Rudd’s resignation confirmed that the government is not serious about trying to get a deal in Brussels. As the prime minister’s top adviser reportedly said: the negotiations are “a sham.”
No one can trust the word of a prime minister who is threatening to break the law to force through No Deal. So a general election is coming. But we won’t allow Johnson to dictate the terms.
And I can tell you this: we’re ready for that election. We’re ready to unleash the biggest people-powered campaign we’ve ever seen. And in that election we will commit to a public vote with a credible option to leave and the option to remain.
Labour is on the side of the people in the real battle against the born-to-rule establishment that Johnson represents. We stand for the interests of the many – the overwhelming majority who do the work and pay their taxes – not the few at the top… who hoard the wealth and dodge their taxes.
It’s Labour’s historic mission to transform people’s lives and that transformation begins in the workplace. In our country, workers have been losing out for far too long.
For 40 years the share of the cake going to workers has been getting smaller and smaller. In 1976 wages took over 64% of GDP now it’s only 54%. It’s no coincidence that the same period has seen a sustained attack on the organisations that represent workers – trade unions.
We have witnessed a deliberate, decades-long transfer of power away from working people. The consequences are stark for all workers, whether members of a trade union or not.
Pay is lower than it was a decade ago in real terms. I’m told that the last decade has seen the biggest squeeze on wages since the Napoleonic Wars. Personally I can’t remember that far back, so I tried to contact Jacob Rees-Mogg this morning to check, but he was fast asleep again on the government benches.
Things cannot go on as they are. Change is coming. And it must be change that gives power to the true wealth creators – the workers. So, today we are announcing that the next Labour government will bring about the biggest extension of rights for workers that our country has ever seen.
We will put power in the hands of workers. What will that mean for people? Better wages, greater security, and more say.
We’ll give workers a seat at the Cabinet table by establishing a new Ministry of Employment Rights. Our shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights, Laura Pidcock, will explain the detail of our plans when she speaks later. But let me give you an overview.
At the core of its work will be rolling out collective bargaining across the economy sector by sector. It’s a system they have in many of the most successful economies around the world. It prevents undercutting on wages, fosters workplace stability and encourages businesses to invest in productivity.
It’s only by acting together, collectively, that workers can really make their voice heard. So within 100 days of Labour taking office, we will repeal the Tory Trade Union Act.
There’s nothing scary about trade unions. However, hard the billionaire-owned media tries to paint them as such. They are the country’s largest democratic organisations rooted in the workplace.
Why should democracy end when you walk into work? Why should the place where you spend most of your day sometimes feel like a dictatorship?
If as an individual you’re asked to work in conditions that are unsafe, what choice do you have? It’s take it or leave it. But as part of a union, with strength in numbers, you can demand a safe working environment.
I want to say this to everybody who is watching beyond this hall. If you’re feeling powerless about your work situation – take action now – today. Join a trade union.
But there’s a big role for government too in extending workers’ legal rights. Labour will deliver a real living wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers, from the age of 16 action on the gender pay gap, equal rights for all workers from day one and the end of zero-hour contracts. And Labour won’t tell people they have to work until they are 75 before getting their pension.
But rights only mean anything if they’re enforced. Too many employers are getting away with flouting laws. Nearly half a million people are still being paid less than the minimum wage.
We’ll put a stop to that. We’ll create a Workers Protection Agency with real teeth, including the power to enter workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf.
If you’re a worker with a boss who makes you work extra hours for no pay or forces you into dangerous situations, you deserve a government that’s on your side and ready to step in to support you.
Our proposals have been developed in consultation with experts, and I would like to thank John Hendy and Keith Ewing in particular for all their help and advice.
Congress, what we’re outlining today will lay the ground for a fundamental transformation of our economy, in favour of the many.
But I have some bad news. We’ve been found out. Last week the Financial Times said that Labour is, and I quote: “determined to shift power away from bosses and landlords and to workers and tenants”.
Well there has been no shortage of rather unkind reporting about our party over the last few years, but this time they’ve got it absolutely right. We will put workers on company boards, and give the workforce a 10% stake in large companies paying a dividend of as much as £500 a year to each employee. And we will give tenants more rights including caps on rent rises.
And that principle of empowering people doesn’t just apply to the workplace. We’ll bring rail, mail, water and the national grid into public ownership, so the essential utilities that people rely on are run by and for the public, not just shareholders.
I want to thank all the unions that are working with us, to develop our new model of public ownership. We’re not recreating the nationalised boards of the past, we’re creating the democracy of tomorrow.
And as we set out how our future economy will operate, we cannot ignore the most pressing issue of all: the climate crisis. Because the destruction of our climate is also a class issue.
It’s working class communities that suffer the worst air pollution – think of all the children living on polluted streets. And it’s working class people who will lose their jobs as resources run down.
The super-rich and the giant corporations will never solve the major design flaws in our economy that are causing the problem, because interests are tied up with them.
But working with the trade union movement, Labour will start a Green Industrial Revolution creating 400,000 well-paid, high skilled, unionised jobs in renewable energy and green technologies.
And we will locate these new industries in parts of the country that have been held back by successive governments; that have focused on the richest in the City of London.
Congress, the coming general election will be a chance for a real change of direction. In the next few weeks the establishment will come after us with all they’ve got, because they know we’re not afraid to take them on.
We’re going after the tax avoiders. We’re going after the bad bosses. We’re going after the dodgy landlords. We’re going after the big polluters destroying our climate. Because we know whose side we’re on.
We’re creating a society of hope and inclusion – not poverty and division. Thank you.
Tobias Ellwood also warned the near-certain next prime minister he would be “crawling back to the table”, begging the EU for an agreement, if he crashed the UK out of the EU in October.
Mr Ellwood ducked repeated questions about his future, but attacked the claims that the UK could prosper if it tried to “run away from the EU”.
Speaking on Sky News, he ridiculed the idea that “we are able to land man on the moon 50 years ago but we can’t sort out the Northern Ireland backstop”, insisting: “We can.”
Mr Ellwood added: “If we don’t do that than the Conservative party could be destined to be in opposition for an awfully long time.
“And that is the danger that I hope every one of my colleagues will wake up to – and of course the next prime minister too.”
The attack came as Mr Hammond revealed he would walk out even before Mr Johnson reaches No 10, saying: “I intend to resign after prime minister’s questions, before the prime minister goes to the Palace.”
David Gauke, the justice Secretary – another no-deal opponent – revealed he would also quit on Wednesday if Mr Johnson is the winner of the contest.