In an effort to find a successor to 'Survivor' and 'Big Brother', an extraordinary TV experiment took place this week. For the making of 'Surviving Prime Ministers', all living PMs and ex-PMs were gathered, together with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, and stranded in a dinner party to see who could survive the longest. The full programme series will go out later this year, but I am privileged to bring you some of the opening dialogue, smuggled out scribbled on a napkin...
Blair: Your Majesty, may I prevail upon you to say grace? I think we will all agree you are the most senior person present.
Callaghan: Very humble of you, Tony.
Blair: Thank you, Jim.
Queen: I would be very pleased to do so. I wonder which grace...
Duke: Why not use that old Scottish grace your mother was so fond of?
Queen: Which one was that?
Duke: The Lord look down upon us,
And keep us all alive,
There's 10 of us for dinner,
And not enough for five.
Queen: Excellent! Let us take it that grace has been said. Now, who is going to be the first to say something witty but uncontroversial? (Long pause.)
Blair: We all know the reason why this dinner has been arranged...
Thatcher: Yes, we do. It has been arranged so that Mr Blair here can be surrounded by people older than himself, and continue to feel that he is young and in touch with the young. It may be the last time he is the youngest person at any gathering.
Blair: I think not. What do you suppose is the real reason I am so friendly with Mr Bush?
Heath: The young are all very well, but I think in these days of an ageing population it is more important to be in touch with the old.
Callaghan: You always thought that, Ted, right from the beginning. Your natural constituency was always the old. Some of us are naturally young, and stay young inside all our lives. I think maybe you were born old.
Major: And I suppose you think I was born middle-aged?
Callaghan: I haven't actually given it much thought, John.
Blair: May I ask if you have ever felt any particular age, Your Majesty?
Queen: Come, Mr Blair, let us not stand on ceremony. No "Your Majesty" here tonight!
Blair: Thank you!
Queen: Just call me "Majesty".
Blair: Yes, Majesty.
Queen: But in answer to your question, no, I have never felt any particular age. And you can see why; unlike most people, I am surrounded by images of myself from wildly differing eras. Every time I handle a coin, I am reminded of my younger self. Like Dorian Gray, I grow older while the picture of me on our stamps stays eternally youthful.
Duke: Who the devil's Dorian Gray? Sounds like a horse-riding sort of name to me... Speaking of which, Blair, you're not going to make horse-riding illegal, are you?
Blair: No, I...
Duke: Can see it happening. Chap falls off a horse, kills himself. Even worse, kills the horse. Nanny state says, far too dangerous. Make horse-riding illegal.
Blair: No, I...
Duke: That chap Milburn in Parliament the other day. Ass of a fellow. Talking about tobacco advertising, he said – and I quote – "Smoking isn't glamorous – it's dangerous." As if the two were opposites. But they're the same thing! When things are dangerous, they are glamorous! That's why people go hunting, and riding, and climbing mountains!
Thatcher: By the way, I see the UN has declared 2002 the International Year of Mountains. What on earth does that mean?
Callaghan: It means they want the Americans to stop bombing them.
Major: And has the British government done anything for mountains this year?
Blair: No, I...
Thatcher: Of course not. Mountains don't have votes. Why should he?
Queen: Whatever happened to the beef mountain? We were always hearing about that, and then suddenly one day it had gone.
Callaghan: Dreadful accident, Majesty. Man climbing up beef mountain, first solo effort to get to the top. Name of Neil Kinnock. Suddenly a vast crevasse opened up. We never heard of him again. But for the grace of the electorate, he might be here tonight.
Queen: How absolutely awful.
Duke: He's pulling your leg, my dear. More smoked salmon, anyone?
Well, who do you think will survive? Both the royals sound like good goers to me. More of this some other time, I hope.Reuse content