Happy Clappy Tony gets a `Private Eye' pulpit

`We didn't have to spend any time at all thinking this one up'

There are aspects of British political satire that grow into traditions more venerable than some of the institutions they seek to satirise. Private Eye started a fortnightly Prime Ministerial lampoon in the 1960s with Mrs Wilson's Diary and this week continued the tradition with a fresh take on the Blair administration.

Following the fictitious Mrs Wilson's Diary, the Dear Bill Letters that baited Baroness Thatcher and The Secret Diary of John Major Aged 473/4 the satirical magazine has started a weekly parish magazine in its pages written by a happy-clappy vicar who insists his parishioners call him Tony.

The Rev Tony peppers his copy with enthusiastic! exclamation! marks! to help spread the good news of the new Government and insists on informal clothes and guitar playing in church.

The St Albion Parish News, as the column is called, is written by the Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, the former editor Richard Ingrams, and the veteran Eye journalists Christopher Booker and Barry Fantoni.

The Rev Tony is the latest in a succession of attempts by cartoonists and comedians to get a comedic handle on the Labour leader's personality. Early attempts to portray him as a pushover "Bambi" character were quickly junked once he started to ruthlessly change Old Labour into New Labour.

But Blair the evangelical moderate seems likely to be a rich satirical seam: "As one old parishioner said to me last week, `Vicar, you've certainly made some changes.' I told her, `Firstly, it's Tony, not Vicar! And, secondly, you mustn't be afraid of change! Because change is good for us all! In moderation of course! Too much change and you don't know where you are!'"

Private Eye's happy clappy vicar exhorts his parishioners against too much formality: "And talking of change, don't think you have to change to come to church! Come as you are - jeans, leggings, trainers, whatever you feel comfortable in! It's not what you wear that matters, it's your attitude that God notices!"

Like its predecessors the purpose of St Albion Parish News is to tickle the belly of current issues, this week Blair's meeting with Mrs Thatcher was one issue: "I gather some of you are a bit upset about my having tea with a former incumbent of this parish. OK, so she left under a bit of a cloud, but it's my job to build bridges and heal rifts - not to go around throwing stones! Enough said, I hope!"

"We didn't have to spend anytime at all thinking this one up," said Mr Hislop yesterday. "I just looked at him moving in to Downing Street with his guitar and I thought Hello, I know what he reminds me of."

"And all that call-me-Tony stuff is very curate-like, wanting to include everybody. We also wanted to get away from doing a diary again and the parish magazine gives us the chance to have Mandelson as the church warden."

The original fortnightly Mrs Wilson's Diary was the idea of Private Eye's then owner, the late Peter Cook. It irritated Mrs Wilson by portraying her as a vacuous Hampstead Garden Suburb housewife with a resolutely middle- brow view of political events. This did not stop the column becoming a successful West End revue.

The same fate befell its successor, the fictitious letters of Denis Thatcher to his supposed drinking and golfing partner Bill Deedes. Dear Bill was turned into a play that the Thatchers actually went to see. It was revealed last year by his daughter that Denis Thatcher played up to his Dear Bill image in order to stay out of the limelight.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power