if you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus

if you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus
James Maxton, to whom this saying is attributed (quot. 1935), was a British Independent Labour Party MP (1932–46). Denis Healey (see quot. 2002), another British Labour politician, was probably consciously quoting Maxton.

1935 G. MCALLISTER James Maxton xiv. Maxton made a brief intervention in the debate to say..that he did not believe it was necessary to pass a resolution for disaffiliation [of the ILP from the Labour Party]. He had been told that he could not ride two horses. ‘My reply to that is’, he said..‘that if my friend cannot ride two horses—what’s he doing in the bloody circus\?’

1979 Daily Telegraph 15 Mar. 15 A producer who ‘can’t ride two horses at the same time shouldn’t be in the circus.’.. Current affairs television should be both serious and entertaining.

2002 National Review 3 June 18 But politics is a practical activity, not an intellectual one. As Denis Healey once said, if you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the bloody circus.


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