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Spectator competition winners: famous authors’ prime-ministerial ambitions

1 October 2016

4:08 PM

1 October 2016

4:08 PM

In 1959 Ian Fleming wrote a fascinating essay for The Spectator under the headline ‘If I were Prime Minister’. In it he proposed, among much else, a combination of ‘benevolent Stakhanovism’ in the workplace and the conversion of Isle of Wight into ‘one vast pleasuredome …where the frustrated citizen of every class could give full rein to those basic instinct for sex and gambling which have been crushed through the ages’.

The invitation to supply a similar article written by the author of your choice produced some equally arresting proposals and Bill Greenwell’s Nevil Shute, Hugh King, C.J. Gleed and Barry Baldwin’s Samuel Johnson, and G.M. Southgate’s Virginia Woolf were extremely unlucky to miss out on a spot in the winning line-up.

The entries printed below earn their authors £30 each. Top dog this week is W.J. Webster, who takes £35.

W.J. Webster/Jeffrey Archer
Had fate not intervened I might actually have attained the highest office in the land. When I came down from Oxford it was obvious that I had been earmarked as a high-flyer. (Much as happened a generation later with another Brasenose alumnus who became Member of Parliament for Witney.) Over lunch at his club in St James a senior figure from Conservative Central Office offered me a choice from a short list of suitable constituencies. Meanwhile I was quietly amassing a personal fortune to tide me over the lean first years in Parliament. But just as my course to the Cabinet was being plotted, financial lightning struck and I was forced to take up my novelist’s pen to save myself from poverty. I remember thinking later that if I were Prime Minister my literary gifts might never have been revealed. It is a thought that haunts me still.


Adrian Fry/Charles Dickens
If I were Prime Minister, I should set out my stall against the dismal enterprise of Poverty, which no man of feeling champions but at which the worlds of politics, commerce and the law unceasingly connive. I shall not, however, concern myself drafting yet another incomprehensible Bill to be ripped apart or watered down as it passes, like a portion of plum pudding, through the already overstuffed Parliamentary gut. Nor shall I entrust my project to the Circumlocutionists of our sclerotic Civil Service. Nor yet will I beseech some Lord Gouty or Right Honourable Mr Grogblossom to append his august name to my project, at once gilding and sinking it. Instead, I shall speak, in my own words and those of my fictional friends acquainted with Poverty, the Truth upon that terrible subject. I promise only tears to all eyes, lumps to all throats, pricks to every conscience.

Brian Murdoch/Samuel Pepys
Were I Her Majestie’s First Minister, I should then straightway rescind the decision to withdraw from the Union of Europe so foolishly made by (as I understand it) the absurdly enfranchised hoi polloi (that too shall be changed!). The many comely and frolicsome young women from European lands working as serving-wenches in every chop-house and coffee-house in the realm do be so useful and pleasurable that their removal were folly indeed. Furthermore, Mrs Pepys often engages for repairs to our habitation a young man from Varsovia (though I fear she spends as much time in his company as with her dancing-master). Next, some doucements must needs be found to salve our angered Physicians, who say that they will refuse to help if there be another epidemic plague. The new Mayor of London must be persuaded to set afire much of the City, a sure remedy for many problems.

Basil Ransome-Davies/John le Carré
I’ve made my name as a writer of espionage novels that show how corrupt the whole damn business is. Democracy suffers when our own intelligence services are busy conspiring against innocent citizens, fighting internecine wars and colluding with the enemy — whoever that may be. And don’t get me started on the Americans.
So as Prime Minister I would sort that out right away. We can’t always rely on honourable schoolboys and old-school patriots to do the right thing. Root-and-branch reform is the only answer
But don’t get me wrong. I want a strong, reliable security service, and that involves treating agents as VIPs. No more dodgy B&Bs with a phone in the hall. No more desk-sharing in scruffy offices. And I’ll move out the dead wood.
There’s no gain without pain, but just remember: if you’re not paranoid you don’t know what’s going on.

Alan Millard/Agatha Christie
I confess I relish the thought of ruling at Number Ten. I have often wondered what sinister secrets lie hidden behind its dark door and who might be twitching the curtains, peering with evil intent from those Georgian windows. If I were Premier, Britain would be a barrel brimming with wholesome fruit unsullied by rotten apples. I should treble the number of female detectives and Belgian sleuths and charge them to root out and exile all potential villains and people whose eyes are too close together or too far apart. With their task completed, two of my choosing would be retained and the others sacked along with all connected with Law. With no more courts, prisons or police to be paid for, the revenue saved would be spent on innocent souls like those at St Mary Mead, honest folk who, freed from felons, desire no more than a quiet life.

The Ig Nobel Prizes are spoof awards handed out at Harvard annually ‘for achievements which cannot — and should not — be reproduced’. Your next challenge is to supply an extract from an award-winner’s speech that describes the ‘achievement’ (invented by you) being honoured. Please email entries of up to 150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 12 October.

P.S. When setting the Ig Nobel competition, I described the awards as being given ‘for achievements which cannot — and should not — be reproduced’. Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, has contacted me to say that this phrase has since been superseded by another — ‘for achievements that make people laugh, then think’ — which more closely encapsulates the spirit of the Igs and which you might like to have in mind when composing your entries.


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