Ed Miliband, leader of the Opposition, wanted to present himself as 'the happy warrior' during televised political debates, according to notes he left in his dressing room, which were acquired by The Sun newspaper. The reference is to Wordsworth's poem, The Character of the Happy Warrior, which, although it does not mention the name Nelson, is a eulogy to the great naval leader.
Wordsworth was not the first poet to use the phrase. Nathaniel Lee wrote a poem in honour of the Prince of Orange, later King William III, as I discovered in this BBC piece devoted to electioneering vocabulary.
The 'Happy Warrior' was discussed in the radio programme, Campaign Sidebar, that I mentioned in my last post. Wordsworth's words are juxtaposed alongside Miliband's. Here it is - scroll through to 07:20. The Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan then expounds on poetry in politics. He agrees with the comment made by former New York governor Mario Cuomo that 'You campaign in poetry, but govern in prose', noting that politicians often latch on to memorable poetic phrases, eg The lady's not for turning, in the case of Mrs Thatcher. McMillan had written a poem specially for the programme, entitled The Happy Warriors, a Cautionary Tale, which he read for listeners.