Who is this `doctor' who claims to be a `minister'?

`Cunningham was well known to the Labour Party, but they had no clear idea of what he did'

IT LOOKS as if TV and radio have been hoaxed again. It now seems that a man known as "Doctor" Jack Cunningham, who has repeatedly gone on radio and TV over the weekend to talk about the threat of genetic engineering, may not be a bona fide top politician at all.

"We should have had our suspicions early on, I suppose," says one duped producer. "He came on air and refused to commit himself to anything. When faced with expert opinion to the effect that genetic modification could harm the immune system, he said that nothing was proved yet. When charged with being in the pocket of big business, he denied it. When asked to put a moratorium on genetically altered foodstuffs, he said he did not feel the government could take this step. When..."

Yes, yes, we get the idea. So he displayed no immediate knowledge of the subject and refused to take any responsibility for it ?

"Yes. He behaved like any normal politician in power, in fact. That is why our suspicions were not aroused."

So what did arouse your suspicions?

"Well, as much as anything it was his ubiquity. He turned up on almost every programme you care to name over the weekend, passionately saying the same nothings and denying the same nothings. Sometimes he even telephoned the programme after he had left the studio to make a further point! Well, politicians do enjoy going on the air as much as anyone, but even they have a home life, especially at the weekends, and this "Dr" Jack Cunningham seemed to spend all his time on the air. So we started to smell a rat."

And then they started to investigate "Dr" Jack Cunningham, and the whole truth began to unravel. For a start, his name wasn't Jack, it was John. For another start, he didn't seem to be what you might call a real doctor.

"Oh, you get this from time to time in top politics," says the producer, who would prefer to remain anonymous and employed. "Every party seems to throw up at least one politician who calls himself a doctor, for no very good reason. They're not medical doctors. They may have some DPhil tucked away in the kitchen cupboard, which would give them a sort of nominal right to be called "doctor" - chemistry in Cunningham's case, I believe - but what normal person would insist on it, unless they were very insecure or perhaps desperate to be taken seriously? We always had trouble with the Tories and their Brian Mawhinney insisting on being called Dr Mawhinney, and then there's Ian Paisley, but let's not go down that particular garden path...

"Anyway, when we investigated further it transpired that although Cunningham was well known to the Labour Party, they had no very clear idea of what he did there. He seemed to attend Cabinet meetings, but had no particular ministry post, except Minister for the Cabinet Office, which doesn't mean anything. When we asked contacts what this could possibly signify, some people said it meant he was the Enforcer, some the Terminator, some the Fixer, all of which suggested that nobody actually knew what he did. Or perhaps of course that he doesn't do anything. Except bluster his way on to programmes!"

Has "Dr" Jack Cunningham therefore engineered his way into the Cabinet in the same way as he seems to have insinuated his way into TV and radio programmes? Is he some kind of bogus minister?

"Look," says the duped producer, who really, really, really doesn't want to be named, as it might lead to all sorts of awkward complications at work, "when you've been in this job as long as I have, and you want to stay there a little longer, you don't use expressions like `bogus' and `scam' and `another time-wasting performance by that arch-witterer Doc Jack Cunningham'. What you do is search out the researchers who were responsible for getting him on the programme and give them a hard time.

"Mark you, there is one other ironic thing about `Dr' Jack Cunningham. When we were checking him out, we looked him up in Who's Who and we noticed that he gives as his one of his hobbies, `listening to other people's opinions'. It may be so but it's not a hobby he indulges in on air very much."

Hmm... But doesn't the fact that "Dr" Jack Cunningham appears in the august pages of Who's Who suggest that he's a genuine politician?

"Not necessarily. After all, Jeffrey Archer's in there as well."

Well, there you have it. If you think "Dr" Jack Cunningham is an impostor, ring the YES line. If not, ring the NO line. All calls are at premium rate, so do ask your parents first - or the people masquerading as your parents.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there