Prime Minister parodies (Private Eye)
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2008)|
Prime Minister parodies are a long-running feature of the British satirical magazine Private Eye, which have been included in the majority of issues since the magazine's inception. The parodies consist of one arch satirical personification of the Prime Minister of the day, and use that personification to send up continuously that Prime Minister's personality and style of leadership, and the personalities and general features of his cabinet. Such are their popularity that the parodies usually find their way into mainstream culture far beyond simply being viewed as a joke within the pages of Private Eye, and are subsequently mentioned often in other journalistic appraisals of the individual in question.
- 1 Harold Wilson: Mrs. Wilson's Diary
- 2 Edward Heath: Heathco. Newsletter
- 3 James Callaghan
- 4 Margaret Thatcher: Dear Bill
- 5 John Major: The Secret Diary of John Major (aged 47¾)
- 6 Tony Blair: St Albion Parish News
- 7 Gordon Brown: Prime Ministerial Decree
- 8 David Cameron: The New Coalition Academy
- 9 Audio parodies
- 10 References
- 11 See also
- 12 External links
Harold Wilson: Mrs. Wilson's Diary
Mrs Wilson's Diary was the imaginary diary of Prime Minister Harold Wilson's wife Mary, in the style of the then-popular BBC radio serial Mrs Dale's Diary. Written primarily by John Wells with input from Richard Ingrams and Peter Cook, it chronicled the events in Wilson's life from Mary's more down-to-earth and homely perspective. Mrs Wilson was presented as seeing herself as comfortably middle class, in contrast to the working class pretensions (and middle class actuality) of her husband, for example the Wincarnis (a brand of tonic wine) and the worsted suits with two pairs of trousers (Wilson was from Huddersfield, a town famous for the manufacture of worsted cloth).
The "Diary" caught the mood of the nation in the mid to late sixties, and helped to raise the profile of the magazine from a fledgling publication to that of a popular and well-known satirical voice. The column subsequently appeared as a sketch on satirical television programmes, and was adapted as a musical play under the eye of Joan Littlewood (music by Jeremy Taylor), being performed in the West End. It also inspired a similar feature in the American magazine National Lampoon named Mrs Agnew's Diary, purporting to be the actual journal of Vice President Spiro Agnew's wife.
Edward Heath: Heathco. Newsletter
Heathco Newsletter purported to be an internal missive from the managing director of a struggling small firm called Heathco, in which Edward Heath (managing director) keeps his staff up to date and in high spirits with the latest company news. Cabinet ministers were recast as petty managers and clerks in this satire. The company's logo was a stylised yacht (Heath's hobby was yachting). The newsletters invariably ended with a request to staff which admonished them for stubbing their cigarettes out in the plastic cups in which the canteen served them with tea. Frequent reference was made to the malfunctioning of the Automatic Plastic Beaker Disposal Unit, or APBDU.
There was no Prime Ministerial parody by Private Eye of James Callaghan's government.
Margaret Thatcher: Dear Bill
Dear Bill consisted of spoof letters from Denis Thatcher to his friend Bill Deedes, editor of the Daily Telegraph, about life in 10 Downing Street with Margaret Thatcher. The series portrayed Denis as a sozzled right-wing alcoholic staggering between snifters, with various friends, many of whom, like Bill and Denis, played golf. The putative author was often commanded to accompany his wife on various tours - home and abroad; electioneering, political and statesmanlike, plus 'very' occasional holidays; Denis has his own slant on everywhere he goes, and not infrequently meets an old chummo with whom he is able to partake of a libation or two. The column was written by Richard Ingrams and John Wells. Wells, also a comic actor, developed a sideline as an impersonator of Denis Thatcher. The collected columns were published every year in paperback form.
The parody led to several spin-offs. Wells wrote and starred in a West End stage musical titled Anyone For Denis featuring Denis Thatcher's perspective of life at Number Ten with Margaret Thatcher. Wells also collaborated with Secret Policeman's Ball series co-creator/producer Martin Lewis and Not the Nine O'Clock News series co-creator/producer John Lloyd on the comedy album Iron Lady: The Coming Of The Leader. The album was written by Wells who also appeared on it performing multiple characters. Lewis and Lloyd produced. Margaret Thatcher was portrayed by Janet Brown.
John Major: The Secret Diary of John Major (aged 47¾)
The Secret Diary of John Major (aged 47¾) was a weekly spoof diary entry based on The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ in which John Major was characterised as being hopelessly naïve and optimistic, as well as dull, weak and obsessed by trivia. The diary reappears occasionally, such as after the revelation of his affair with Edwina Currie, when he was made a Knight of the Garter and after he attended the funeral of Edward Heath.
Tony Blair: St Albion Parish News
St Albion Parish News was the newsletter of a fictional parish, "St Albion", in which Tony Blair's religious beliefs and style of public speaking saw him characterised as a trendy yet sanctimonious Church of England vicar, and members of his government as various parish officials, e.g. Gordon Brown as the grumpy parish treasurer, and Hazel Blears delivering the parish newsletter on the back of her bicycle. Blair often received updates from his transatlantic confidant, George Bush, from the "Church of the Latter-Day Morons", or a topical variant thereof (such as the "Church of Latter-Day More Bombs" in times of war). From 1997-2001, during the presidency of Bill Clinton, the correspondence was described as coming from "The Church of the 7th Day Fornicators" in reference to Clinton's womanising.
Gordon Brown: Prime Ministerial Decree
Prime Ministerial Decree was a mock Stalinist decree by "supreme leader" Gordon Brown, portrayed as a centralist dictator. Brown continuously hailed the "Age of Change" and often attempted to revise history (playing on Brown's degree in history), making harsh attacks on the "discredited regime" of "former Comrade Blair". The column made much of the Soviet-era tendency to coin philosophies pertaining to certain people, often referring to "Blairist-Mandelsonism", "Osbornist-Cameronian" and other variants.
David Cameron: The New Coalition Academy
David Cameron (MA Oxon) is portrayed as the headmaster of The New Coalition Academy along with Deputy Headmaster Nick Clegg (MA Cantab). Key members of staff include Mr Cable the Business Studies teacher, Mr Osborne the bursar and his assistant Mr Alexander, who has joined the staff "since leaving school last year". The Secretary of State for Defence is the head of the cadets and the Home Secretary the master in charge of detentions. Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove is regularly pictured sitting on a child's play chair, dubbed the "naughty chair", for various misdemeanors.
The Private Eye recordings issued by the magazine from time-to-time, especially in its first fifteen years, featured comedic impersonations and lampoons of the following Prime Ministers:
- Brown, Janet. Prime Mimickery Robson Books, 1986, p. 115
- Private Eye
- Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
- List of people and organisations frequently parodied by Private Eye
- List of recurring in-jokes in Private Eye
- Details of the Private Eye recordings