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?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?