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British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech to the annual Conservative Party Conference held on October 5th in Manchester.

The New Yorker magazine (October 5) introduced some of clips from his speech with sarcastic notes in the article titled, “David Cameron: An Annotated Guide.” Because it was a simple collection of fragmentary quotations, it was hard to guess any gist of his speech from this article.

Among them, there was a clip followed by the following annotation:

“You did Britain a service and kicked that useless voting system off the political agenda for decades to come.”

Points for style: American politicians should adopt “useless,” more often heard here in reference to philandering husbands and remote controls, as a term of public contempt.

I don’t understand what “You did Britain a service” in Cameron’s line means. What is “a service” in this context? I mean what service did “You” - Conservative Party or the nation offer Britain?

And what is a connection of “philandering husband” and “remote controls” in the annotation? Can somebody decipher for me?

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I don’t understand what “You did Britain a service” in Cameron’s line mean. What is “a service” in this context? I mean what service did “You” - Conservative Party or the nation offer Britain?

"Be of service" or "Do someone a service" is a phrase that means "to be of some help to someone"

Oxford Dictionary defines service as the action of helping or doing work for someone

an act of assistance:

Example - he has done us a great service

So in this context, Cameron is telling the audience (the general British public, more likely than the Conservative Party members alone) that they did Britain a great favour by not choosing an alternative voting system.

Background: A very good article is the Wikipedia on the UK Alternative Voting (AV)referendum. For this answer, it suffices to say Cameron's party (The Conservatives or Tories as they are more commonly referred to) was not in favour of the AV system, and in May 2011, in a referendum, the majority of Britain voted against the AV system and for retention of the current voting system. So the Tories had their favoured outcome, and Cameron is thanking the audience for helping them get there.

And what is a connection of “philandering husband” and “remote controls” in the annotation? Can somebody decypher for me?

This is the New Yorker trying to be funny. Usually politicians do not use words like "useless" to refer to something which is part of another party's political agenda (and election manifesto). Well, at least not in public and as part of the party keynote address which is televised live to the nation

NY says the word useless is more commonly used as an adjective for "remote controls" and "philandering husbands" and are telling the readers that this word needs to be used more often by American politicians in a political context and in public.

Points for style: American politicians should adopt “useless” ... as a term of public contempt

Points for style = Imaginary Plus points awarded to Cameron by the NY

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In net, Cameron said “Well done. You British nation helped our country by kicking off AV referendum. Right? –  Yoichi Oishi Oct 7 '11 at 8:57
    
@Yoichi: Yes. In short. –  JoseK Oct 7 '11 at 8:59
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Be careful. "Kicking off" is an informal phrasal verb that means "Starting", but that is not the sense here. The phrase is "Kicking [off the agenda]", i.e. "Strongly removing from the agenda". –  Colin Fine Oct 7 '11 at 9:11
    
@Colin: Well spotted, so Yoichi's summary would be kicking out the AV system. Which is what my answer states as well. –  JoseK Oct 7 '11 at 9:15
    
'Kick off' also means 'become aggressive'. –  Barrie England Oct 7 '11 at 9:32
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