light the blue touch paper

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light the (blue) touch paper

To do something that instigates or initiates some intense or widespread action or reaction. (Touch paper is a strip of paper treated with potassium nitrate that is used as a fuse for explosives.) Primarily heard in UK. Their goal late in the first half seemed to light the blue touch paper for the team—they've shown much more energy and aggression on the pitch since then. The proposed law has lit the touch paper for activists, who have been gathering people and resources to protest it en masse.
See also: light, paper, touch
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

light the blue touch paper

or

light the touch paper

BRITISH
If someone lights the blue touch paper or lights the touch paper, they do or say something which causes people to react in an angry or violent way. This kind of remark is guaranteed to light the blue touch paper with some Labour politicians. Tension between them had been building up for weeks. All it took was Mason to light the touch paper and stand back. Note: The touch paper on a firework is a small piece of dark blue paper attached to one end. When it is lit, it burns slowly until it sets off the firework.
See also: blue, light, paper, touch
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
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References in periodicals archive ?
It wouldn't do him any harm to go the distance against Lo Greco, but if he were to take him out it would light the touch paper and bring the big fights he wants into sharper view.
RAHEEM STERLING has revealed how hours of practice on the training ground helped him light the touch paper on a memorable win over Manchester City.
A team turning out at St James' Park in redand-white stripes could light the touch paper and produce fireworks and I am going to take Alan Pardew's side at 15/8 to brush Mark Hughes' Potters aside by winning at half-time and full-time.
Or do we need to light the touch paper and blaze a trail?
I could tell you every team where there's a few who light the touch paper. We are no different."
Both actions failed to light the touch paper and Nottingham took a fourgoal lead into the break after Stephen Lee scored from the point.
READY TO LIGHT THE TOUCH PAPER: Northallerton fire fighters Danny Swires, Mark Pinder, Mick Sowden, Colin Kirby and Adrian Johnson in the background with Simon Bailes and station manager, Carl Boasman at the front
"The other strikers have had chances in the early days of the season, and we've waited for someone to light the touch paper.
And to light the touch paper ahead of the clash, Wedi 7 will hold interviews with both coaches and hear about Sir Clive's own Lions experiences as a player when he roomed with the then Welsh captain Ray Gravell.
Many of his interviews were of the 'Light the touch paper and retire' variety.
That, though, seemed to light the touch paper for Moseley, who began what should have been a glorious revival.
We've waited a week for Sri Lanka to light the touch paper and today is the ideal opportunity to put England firmly in their place.
Victory for Mathews could light the touch paper on a memorable weekend for the city with his beloved Liverpool facing Newcastle United less than 24 hours later in the final game of the Premier League season.
And the Toon boss reckon that three points against the Cottagers will go some way towards staving off the lingering threat of relegation - and light the touch paper for the second leg against Benfica.