Saturday, 11 April 2009

249: Edward Heath, A Preference for Seamen?

In his private leisure time, one of Heath’s manly pursuits was a wholly laudable interest in maritime activities as a fervent sailor. Since the public on occasion harbours certain sordid suspicions about the private interests of sailors, it seems sometimes Heath’s reputation suffered by unfortunate association.

by John Kent in "Private Eye" 27 May 70
John Kent’s strip “Grocer Heath and His Pals” ran in “Private Eye” during Heath’s period in office, and was a political satire of Heath in the style of an old-fashioned English children’s comic. This one is about the suspicions that Heath’s assorted activities and tastes combined to create in the public imagination. For shame, everyone of you.

from “HP Sauce” by Auberon Waugh, with illustration by Willie Rushton, in “Private Eye”, 2 July 71
Waught attributes some strange psycho-sexual compulsion to Heath’s maritime pursuits. And can Mr Rushton mean by the sign reading “Portnoy”? And that one of the nautical tars wears a hat bearing the legend “Hello” cannot but evoke the cheeky gay solicitation “Hello sailor”?

A sketch on “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (21 December 1969) about a Chippendale writing desk that performs impersonations of famous Englishmen with wood-allusive names does his “Edward Heath” with a throwaway “Hello Sailor”.

“Hello Sailor” by Eric Idle
One of the threads in this comic novel follows a ruddy-faced, lumbering, nautically-interested Prime Minister and his attempts to cover his secret gay affairs. The book was published in 1975, but was apparently written in 1970, which would have made the inspiration for Idle’s fictitious Prime Minister rather more blatant.
The cover is a rather camp parody of the image off “Player’s Navy Cut” cigarettes.

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