Some things change – but Prezza stays the same

Posted on January 07, 2013

A new year heralds change – 2013 will see new heights of human achievement, new lows of tragedy, new inventions and discoveries, new works of art and new ways to move the spirit.

What it will not see, it seems, is a new commitment to accuracy from John Prescott. In the history of scientific endeavour, few leopards have been discovered with less changeable spots.

This morning the good Lord – turned Sunday Mirror columnist – tweeted:

Unfortunately for Prezza, that photo – much used by the lefty twitterati in recent months – is from September 2004, as reported here.

That means the bubbly was being delivered not to George Osborne or his Coalition colleagues but to Gordon Brown, at a time when John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister. Either Prezza knows the photo is from the wrong administration and is deliberately misleading his 167,000 Twitter followers, or he has mistakenly picked it up from somewhere else.

Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the latter. The only recent, mainstream use of the picture was in the Daily Mail last year, accompanying a story that the Chancellor intends to introduce a green tax on chilled champagne. The tax will supposedly be called the “Thermal Reduction Initiative (Champagne)”, or “TRIC”. Published under the byline “Pru Cremier”, the story was published on…April the 1st.

Oh dear, John.

Horses, cats, badgers and burgers: The Top 10 Weird Political Scandal Props

Posted on March 02, 2012

There is a particular type of news story which British politics alone produces. Maybe it’s to do with our politicians, our media or our national sense of humour, but it’s undeniable that Westminster has an amazing capacity to produce scandals which give a prominent part to odd (and otherwise insignificant) items.

The case of Rebekah Brooks’ horse, which it has emerged was ridden by David Cameron once despite No 10′s previous denials, is a classic example. The story is interesting due to its part in the ongoing discussion of relationships between politicians, the media and the police, but in itself it’s not that interesting. On paper, it doesn’t deserve front page billing – and yet it is almost certain to be on the front page of several of tomorrow’s papers.

What propels into media stardom is the very fact that the whole thing centres around a horse – and it is this kind of peculiar political prop that British journalists and audiences absolutely revel in.

In order to further the study of this phenomenon, here are CrashBangWallace.com’s Top 10 Weird Political Scandal Props:

1) Ron Davies’ “badger”

The former Secretary of State for Wales was forced to quit politics after being photographed by The Sun apaprently cruising for sex in the woods. So far, so run-of-the-mill sex scandal. It was, however, his claim that he had been “watching badgers” that made the story famous, notorious and memorable. The badger is distinguished particularly by being a Political Scandal Prop which did not actually exist. (As an aside, almost as memorable a prop provided by Davies was the word “sorry” which he wrote on his hand before TV interviews to remind himself to say it…)

2) Michael Foot’s Donkey Jacket

Michael Foot was a disastrous Labour leader for many reasons (not least the “longest suicide note in history”), but he is still remembered for wearing what appeared to be a donkey jacket at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day in 1981. As it turned out, it wasn’t a donkey jacket after all, and the Queen Mother reportedly liked it, but the impression that he was treating the ceremony with disrespect stuck both on his reputation and in the memories of the public.

3) The Duck House

In modern times, the £1,645 Duck House claimed on MPs’ expenses by Sir Peter Viggers is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the Weird Political Scandal Props genre. The fact that no-one knew what a duck house was before Sir Peter gave the UK’s duck house industry a publicity boost helped the story to come to be emblematic of the entire MPs’ expenses scandal. Ask someone in the street what they remember about MPs’ expenses and they are certain to mention the accommodation facilities provided to Viggers’ mallards.

4) John Gummer’s burger

In 1990, at the height of the BSE/CJD panic, Agriculture Minister John Gummer attempted to calm the public by feeding a beef burger to his daughter. As if the deployment of a young child, or the attempt to feed her allegedly dangerous meat, wasn’t bad enough, young Miss Gummer refused to eat it, so her father tucked in for the cameras instead.

5) David Mellor’s Chelsea Kit

In the firestorm of scandals engulfing John Major’s Government, David Mellor’s affair with Antonia de Sancha still stands out – purely due to her claims that he asked her to wear a Chelsea shirt while they had sex. In the 90s, sleaze was all too common, but sleaze with such an odd prop proved legendary.

6) William Hague’s baseball cap

The newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, in opposition for the first time in 18 years and battered from the grim decline of the Major years, went on an immediate drive to appear young and in touch. For some reason, this involved wearing a baseball cap on a log flume at a theme park - a move which was roundly mocked from the left and the right. (A close runner up for William Hague was the 14 pints that he claimed to regularly drink in a day when younger.)

7) Humphrey the Downing Street Cat

Shortly after the Blairs moved into Downing Street in 1997, Humphrey the cat, who had been in residence since 1989, was unceremoniously forced to move out. Medical reasons were cited for his retirement (“spending more time with his family” presumably being inapplicable), but rumours abounded that Cherie Blair had taken a dislike  to him – or even had him murdered, according to Alan Clark.

8 ) The egg that hit John Prescott

In 2001, countryside protester and mullet-wearer Craig Evans threw an egg at John Prescott. The one thing he probably didn’t expect was for Prezza to wallop him in return. There were calls for a resignation, general sympathy for wanting to punch someone who pelts you with food and the famous Blair response “John is John” – all started by a simple egg.

9) Michael Mates’ engraved watch

One of the odder parts of the Polly Peck scandal in the early 90s (which is only now coming to court, with Asil Nadir’s return to Britain) was when Michael Mates, then Northern Ireland Minister, sent Nadir a watch engraved with the words “Don’t let the buggers get you down”. Somewhat embarassingly for Mates, who had been defending Nadir in public as well as sending such tokens in private, the businessman skipped bail and fled to Cyprus. Mates resigned.

10) John Hemming’s girlfriend’s cat

Before the scandal over Rebekah Brooks’ horse, Lib Dem MP John Hemming had provided the most recent animal-themed controversy. Hemming, a repeat adulterer who has been a little too open about his sex life for some reason, apparently annoyed even his hyper-tolerant wife so much so that she stole his mistress’s pet cat. The cat was reported to have been found, but there have since been allegations that the cat that was handed over is not the real cat after all. The mystery deepens…

There are plenty more Weird Political Scandal Props out there – which are your favourites?