Dr Phil Hammond
NEW Phil is being revalidated by the GMC in September 2013. Here is the feedback from his colleagues and patients
Phil Hammond is a doctor, journalist, broadcaster and comedian. He qualified as a GP in 1991 and currently works in a specialist NHS centre for children and adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome/ME. Phil is also a presenter on BBC Radio Bristol and has been Private Eye’s medical correspondent since 1992, campaigning for open data in the NHS and better support for whistleblowers. He is a Vice President of the Patients’ Association and a patron of Meningitis UK, the Doctors’ Support Network, the Herpes Viruses Association, Patients First and Kissing It Better.
Phil presented five series of Trust Me, I’m a Doctor on BBC2 and has appeared regularly on Have I Got News for You, The News Quiz, The Now Show, The One Show and Countdown. Recently, he presented a film on the NHS reforms for Inside Out (BBC1). He has been a Lecturer in Medical Communication at the Universities of Bristol and Birmingham, and still teaches medical students. Phil’s Radio 4 sitcom about GPs struggling with the NHS reforms – Polyoaks – was written with David Spicer and has just been commissioned for a third series. Phil tours chilly provincial theatres in the UK as a comedian, has written three books – Medicine Balls, Trust Me, I’m (Still) a Doctor and Sex, Sleep or Scrabble? – and released two DVDs (Dr Phil’s Rude Health Show and Confessions of a Doctor).
His recipe for NHS reform is a lot simpler than the Health and Social Care Act
1. Stop killing patients
2. Harm patients as little as possible
3. Before doing anything, ask not just ‘is it likely to work?’ but ‘is it humane?’
4. Train and motivate the front-line staff, make sure there are enough of them and look after their mental health
ALL NEW SHOW - ‘GAMES TO PLAY WITH YOUR DOCTOR’ – TOURING AUTUMN 2013 ONWARDS
‘If Dr Phil were a medicine, you should swig him by the litre’ **** The Times
‘Consistently funny’ ***** The Sunday Telegraph
“You’ll never see a doctor in quite the same way again.” ***** The Scotsman
MONEY BACK IF YOU DONT LIVE TO 100*
(*terms and conditions apply)
DATES SO FAR
12 South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell 01344 484 123
14 Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington 01805 624624
17 The Stables, Milton Keynes 01908 280800
19 The Komedia, Bath 0845 293 8480
22 Riverhead Theatre, Lincolnshire 01507 600350
28 Berry Theatre, Hedge End &The Point, Eastleigh 01489 799 499
30 Norwich Arts Centre 01603 660352
03 Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham 0115 846 7777
05 Discovery Centre, Winchester 01962 873603
12 Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton (023) 80 667 683
24 Phoenix Theatre, Exeter 01392 667080
30 Mills Arts Centre, Banbury 01295 279002
02 The Junction, Cambridge 01223 511 511
08 Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury 01684 295 074
16 Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis 01297 442138
21 Huntingdon Hall, Worcester 01905 611427
25 Gulbenkian Canterbury 01227 769075
29 Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead 01442 228 091
01 Stand, Edinburgh 0131 558 7272
02 Stand, Glasgow 0844 335 8879
03 Stand, Newcastle 0844 693 3336
05 South Street Arts Centre, Reading 0118 960 6060
13 Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham 01273 464440
17 Leicester Square Theatre, London 08448 733433
15 Hall for Cornwall, Truro 01872 262466
17 The Lights, Andover 01264 368368
26 Eden Court, Inverness 01463 234 234
POLYOAKS HAS BEEN RECOMMISSIONED BY RADIO 4 FOR A THIRD SERIES
‘SHOOT THE MESSENGER’ – A PRIVATE EYE SPECIAL INVESTIGATION BY PHIL HAMMOND AND ANDREW BOUSFIELD INTO HOW NHS WHISTLEBLOWERS ARE SILENCED AND SACKED WAS SHORTLISTED FOR THE MARTHA GELLHORN PRIZE FOR JOURNALISM 2011. AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD HERE Shoot_the_Mesenger_FINAL
**** Review in THE TIMES, January 24, 2012
‘If Hammond were a medicine, he would be worth swigging by the litre.’
Dr Phil’s Rude Health Show at South Hill Park, Bracknell
January 24 2012 12:01AM
Hammond’s roles as a GP and medical campaigner help him to juggle life-and-death issues with naughty but nice A&E tales
A comic who has a hinterland? A stand-up who doesn’t build his material around the soaps he has been watching in his hotel room? Phil Hammond’s twin roles as a GP and a medical campaigner add weight to a performance that juggles life-and-death issues with the kind of naughty but nice A&E anecdotes that have kept many an over-worked junior doctor sane down the years.
This brisk and breezy show gives him the opportunity to explain how he acquired his outsider status. Initially raised in Australia, he spent the remainder of his youth in the West Country, ditching his newly acquired Wurzle accent when his stepfather, an unassuming builder, paid for him to attend the sixth form at Marlborough College. Rubbing shoulders with the elite brought an injection of self-confidence but, deep down, Hammond was perhaps too much of an Aussie to be bought off.
It is hard not to warm to his unpretentious, self-mocking bedside manner. Having worked his passage through the NHS — he seems to have been the most cack-handed physician ever let loose in a labour ward — he has acquired a brutally unsentimental view of its inner workings. The system creaks, doctors muddle along and paperwork takes priority over patients. (Having had plenty of exposure to the system myself recently, I find myself envying the TLC my cat receives from her vet.) But will the looming programme of reforms make things any better? Hammond suspects not.
It is a pity that he doesn’t spend more time on this rather than the tales of his fellow humans’ never-ending ability to find unsuitable objects to insert in the wrong orifices. And his account of his experiences as a columnist in Private Eye is dispatched very quickly too. But these are quibbles. If Hammond were a medicine, he would be worth swigging by the litre.
EDINBURGH FRINGE 2011 REVIEWS
VERONICA LEE – SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
DR PHIL’S RUDE HEALTH SHOW *****
Dr Phil Hammond, from Radio 4 and Private Eye, offers a consistently funny show that mixes wry political analysis of the NHS with saucy stuff ‘between the femurs and the coccyx’. His stageside manner is thoughtful and witty, but a quiet exterior barely masks his deep anger about how a revered national institution has been reduced to targets and profits rather than decent patient care. He has anecdotes aplenty from his doctoring, and also some from his Australian relatives, who sound a blast. His Auntie Queenie’s best sex advice was ‘Keep it in your trousers.’
Phil Hammond’s brand of comedy is impish, waspish and fiercely satirical which is made more powerful by his calm delivery. As a practising GP between his TV appearances, he reveals many of the faults which exist in our public services whether it is in the NHS or education. Basically, gobbledygook has replaced common sense and humanity.
At the start of his show he asks a packed audience ‘Do you want political comedy or toilet humour?’ By an overwhelming majority, the audience went for toilet humour. Well, the audience received a whole bundle of hilarious anecdotes from his experiences as a doctor. For example, people do arrive in casualty with the strangest objects up the back passage but it was the explanations they gave which gave the belly laughs. However, in a subtle way we received a political message as his routines developed..
What I found really scary is that we have always had tricksters in medicine. Back in the 19th century they sold compounds which they claimed could cure all ailments. Now the deception is becoming corporate. There is much money to be made in providing health care.
Despite all the learned people he has encountered in his medical training, perhaps the most influential person in his life was his Uncle Ron who was content with his life of ‘happy mediocrity’. His attitude to life’s problems was ‘F**k it, f**k it’. This is an attitude Phil Hammond holds dear.
Phil Hammond has all the attributes of the good stand-up comedian – timing, pacing and presence. Allied to this, he has a message which all of us should find essential listening because we are all users of the NHS.
One feature worth mentioning is that this venue must have the most comfortable seats I have ever experienced on the Fringe – even having arm rests.
Reviewed by Ben (by sheer coincidence earlier in the day, I saw ‘Penny Dreadful’s Etherdome’ which has a medical theme taken from the 19th century)
Dr Phil’s Rude Health Show
Venue: theSpace @ Symposium Hall
Coming dangerously close to breaking a substantial level of client confidentiality, Private Eye writer and still practising G.P Dr Phil Hammond is here at the Fringe to bring a gloriously entertaining mix of politics and true life recollections.
Pity the poor man or woman who ‘accidentally’ manages to get a foreign object lodged inside themselves, for they will be fair game for his comedy accounts as he rather graphically explains some of his funnier patients and the rather clever methods of removing such objects as a turnip, glass light bulb and a ketchup bottle. Far more than just a recount of patients poor decisions, though, this is actually a very funny and intelligent show, also concerned with the politics of the NHS, covering such themes as alternative therapies, the Scottish death rate, political red tape and the ever increasing costs.
This all could be a bit heavy were Hammond not such an endearing watch. Intelligent and likeable, with just a hint of smut, he keeps the show rattling along at an entertaining pace. Mixing just the right level of puerile humour with chin-stroking thoughts it makes for a thoroughly good show that will make you laugh and cross your legs in horror.
Tuesday August 23rd, 2011 13:37
From the satirical to the grossly scatological, Dr Phil has got it all in hand – and a great bedside manner to boot. The GP-turned-comedian may be most famous for his NHS whistle-blowing, but as this show proves, he’s no stranger to stand-up, either. A routine about the most interesting objects removed from patients’ bottoms would, in any other hands, border on the unlistenable; Dr Phil not only makes it hilarious, but throws in a serious message without losing the interest of the audience – an impressive feat. It’s a show at least as interesting as it is funny, full of facts both medical and political, and well worth an hour of your time. Make an appointment now.
theSpace at Symposium Hall, 8 – 27 Aug (not 14, 21), 7.00pm (8.00pm), £7.00 – £10.00, fpp69.
tw rating 4/5
OFFICIAL EDINBURGH FRINGE 2011 AUDIENCE REVIEWS
- Brenda Brown
about 1 hour ago
Very entertaining and funny, – and thought provoking about the NHS. Put a new prospective on my view of hospitals and doctors!
- Jacek Gruca
about 3 hours ago
- Judith Currie
about 4 hours ago
Very enjoyable. Phil amuses his audience while giving food for thought about the dismantling of our precious NHS.
- Harry Turner
about 5 hours ago
Quite simply, the best thing I have seen at The Fringe in 20 years.
A real, proper, laugh-out-loud-laugh every few seconds, thought provoking facts and a potentially life saving demonstration – what more could you ask for?!
- Keith McMahon
about 15 hours ago
Sheer brilliance – had us crying with laughter. Political satire without the negativity. Get tickets!!
- Debby Green
2 days ago
Funny guy, very quick, constantly on the ball
- David Todd
3 days ago
Subtle, humorous, very entertaining, an excellent show
- Lin Macmillan
4 days ago
Extremely funny, if somewhat scatalogical. However the humour is the “front man” for some serious points about health and health provision. Well worth going to.
- Alison Fish
4 days ago
Laugh out loud funny, you might learn something too!
- Jane Alexander
6 days ago
Brilliant – tears of laughter.
- John Harding
7 days ago
Yes – I would have him as my GP. He even conned Elaine Chase into taking the placebo pill!
- Glyn Knowles
8 days ago
The Doc was a tonic for the Festival – Rude health advice on pleasuring yourself safely with a bit of CPR for free -
- Fiona Freeland
8 days ago
Good show. A clever, witty and intelligent comedian.
- Philip Cowper
8 days ago
Slick, thoughtful material, well delivered and very funny.
- John Marshall
10 days ago
Outstanding. This is a 1 hour long show and it seemed like 5 minutes….Superb entertainment from a very impressive and likeable character.
- David Edge
12 days ago
Excellent show – an hour full of hilarity regarding life on the front liine of healthcare- also educational.
I would have him as my GP
- Ron McGill
12 days ago
A great start to our visit to the fringe – really enjoyed the show. Very amusing, but some serious points made as well. My wife thought the jokes were too male oriented – you can tell how healthy a man is by looking at his scrotum, but no information to guage the health of a woman!
- Arnold Ridout
13 days ago
Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking.
- Dawn McDowell
13 days ago
Brilliant not a second wasted in making us LOL a dig at the health service suits but very funny enjoyed greatly
- Janet Paton
14 days ago
- Rachel Hulse
15 days ago
Brilliant, I’m a working Manager & Radiographer in the English NHS & Dr Phil was everything I needed to make me laugh! Thabnk you & keep doing what you do – no-one would darn stirke you off!!! R x
- Anthony Thresher
17 days ago
Anarchic, incisive, thought provoking and very funny. This man should be running the NHS not being forced to run it down. A full house was fully engaged throughout. An admirable man and a high quality show.
- Neill Campbell
17 days ago
Fantastic! In my one day festival feast of seeing shows this was def the best. Some of the images he put in my mind got me in tears of laughter. However amongst the humour there’s a serious message about his thoughts on the NHS but all done in his amiable antipodean style. 5 stars from me!
- Kevin Slessor
17 days ago
From the begining it was obvious we were in for a treat. Dr Phil’s delivery is faultless. Very funny and also informative. I now know the sexy way to give CPR. Brilliant
- Warwick Shaw
18 days ago
A very funny, clever, rude and at times thought provoking time. Great fun and brilliantly delivered
DR PHIL’S RUDE HEALTH SHOW BLURB….
Dr Phil Hammond - practising GP, Private Eye’s medical correspondent and the only comedian to have played a Public Inquiry – is back at the Fringe 21 years after his debut in Struck Off and Die. His Rude Health Show is a unique mix of the anatomical and the political. If you want to know how to pleasure yourself without ending up in casualty, Dr Phil has all the answers. And if he doesn’t he’ll do what all doctors do. Make something up.
Why does Scotland have the best health service in the UK, but the lowest life expectancy? Why do children put things in their upper holes and adults in their lower holes? Is it safe to fall asleep with a penis enlarger on? Why are NHS Whistleblowers being taken outside and shot? Can anyone put a condom on with less than three hands? How does Gordon Brown look so shit and still remain vertical? And what should you do if someone dies on you during sex?
Dr Phil has sold-out seven fringe shows, including 59 Minutes to Save the NHS. He has appeared regularly on Have I Got News For You, Trust Me I’m a Doctor, Countdown, News Quiz, The One Show and The Now Show. He’s the co-writer of Radio 4’s cult medical comedy Polyoaks,co-author of a Private Eye Whistleblower special, Shoot the Messenger, and co-creator of the campaigning website www.medicalharm.org, which helps patients, relatives and NHS staff speak up without being shot down. And he still manages to be funny.
“Tough on doctors, politicians and patients. And he’s funny” The Daily Telegraph
“Essential Fringe viewing. Assured, blackly funny and profane” ****The List
“Effortlessly suave, delightfully vulgar. You’ll never see a doctor in quite the same way again ***** The Scotsman
“One of the most entertainingly subversive people on the planet.” Guardian”
Monday 30 May 2011
Standing up for rude health
Dr Phil Hammond tells Jasmine Malone about his new comedy show and why he loves being a GP.
By Jasmine Malone 7:00AM BST 30 May 2011
When I arrive at the Royal Society of Medicine to interview Dr Phil Hammond, he tells me he hopes that I am not disappointed – that I hadn’t expected Dr Phil of Oprah fame. “He is much more famous than me,” he says, “but on the plus side, I have much more hair.”
Hammond is also far more entertaining than Oprah’s Dr Phil. Coffee orders taken, he tells me that he is the patron of the Herpes Virus Association – and not the Patron Saint of Herpes, as he was recently described. But he admits that sexual health is an area of medicine severely in need of a comic injection.
Hammond believes we shouldn’t talk about sexually transmitted infections, but ones that are sexually shared. “If we share pleasure, we also share bugs. So it’s only fair that we share treatment.”
His stand-up show, which is back on tour next month, is called Dr Phil’s Rude Health Show. However, he is keen to share the more risqué title he plans to use when he appears at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer: “’How to pleasure yourself in a safe and sustainable way,’” he says with a grin.
Beyond the joke, Hammond insists there is a serious message. With up to 70 per cent of illnesses burdening the NHS categorised as self-induced, he believes we must moderate our pleasures, meaning less smoking, alcohol, overeating and unsafe sex. “No system can cope with a tsunami of chronic disease,” he says.
But he is also quick to criticise the widespread changes to the NHS being considered by this Government. “That’ll be the third ‘once in a lifetime change’ we’ve had in the past 12 years,” he says. “What the NHS needs is stability and wise, non-bullying leaders, as well as a sense of collaboration among staff and patients, to work out how to improve the service when money is tight.”
The Coalition’s NHS reforms are the subject of Hammond’s latest BBC Radio 4 project, a timely medical satire called Polyoaks. The sitcom follows the lives of three GPs who run a traditional practice that faces becoming a super-surgery, or polyclinic. “Anyone who wants to know what’s really happening to the NHS but can’t wade through the 367-page Health and Social Care Bill should listen,” says Hammond.
Nigel Planer plays Dr Roy Thornton, a fusty, cardigan-wearing traditionalist who is loath to change any aspect of his family practice. His younger brother, Dr Hugh Thornton, is played by Tony Garder, Hammond’s former stand-up partner in the Radio 4 comedy about medical matters, Struck Off and Die. Dr Hugh hates being a GP and is very much looking forward to becoming a modern polyclinic commissioner.
The third character, Dr Jeremy, played by David Westhall, is obsessed with sexual health, very popular with patients, much to the chagrin of his colleagues, and based loosely on Hammond himself. “He’s the lazy celebrity TV doctor, who only works at the surgery to give himself a veneer of credibility. He nearly got struck off and makes all his diagnoses on Google.”
As well as being a health commentator, author and comedian, Hammond is a practising GP. The balancing act involved is evident when I call him to follow up on our interview. He found time to speak in between seeing patients at his surgery in Keynsham , near Bristol, on what has been a hectic Monday morning: “They must have all had a crazy weekend.”
Hammond says he loves being a doctor because he gets material to be a comedian, and loves being a comedian because it makes him a better doctor. Beyond writing about health-care issues and penning medical satires, touring the comedy circuit is a particular pleasure because it gives him a connection with the public.
Over the years, Hammond has noticed a shift in his material, from defending doctors to protecting patients. One of his first television ventures, Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, which was broadcast on BBC Two in 1997, was an attempt to encourage patients to question their doctors’ decisions, a feat Hammond knows isn’t easy. “When you’re sick, you’re frightened, and it’s not easy to ask a surgeon what his or her success rate is.”
As is evident with Polyoaks, policy affecting patient care is now the subject close to his heart. “What we want is health reforms that focus first and foremost on patient safety, not on cutting costs,” he says.
Hammond made his name writing about the health service for Private Eye. One of his first stories, into the deaths of children undergoing heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary, appeared in 1992, nine years before an official public inquiry concluded that between 30 and 35 babies and young children had died as a result of substandard care.
He is currently working on a special edition of Private Eye about the NHS. “When you put cutting costs first, inevitably patient welfare is compromised, leading to scandal,” he says. “The NHS needs to rediscover its humanity, and the best measure of that is not just how we treat the most vulnerable patients, but how we respond to those who raise concerns about the safety of the service. At present, far too many whistle-blowers are being silenced with gagging clauses and pay-offs with public money. If we don’t start listening to carers, patients and staff who speak up, we’ll end up with a WikiLeaks for the NHS and all hell will break loose. In fact, I think I might start one.”
These action shots were taken in 1988, by photographer Homer Sykes, when glasses were riduclously big and babies were ridiculously slippery. If you think you might be one of them, please let me know. You may be entitled to compensation.
My toughest case: Baby Phil
Early in my medical career, in-between stitching my glove onto the top of a man’s head and watching my spectacles fall into an open wound, I realised a career in surgery probably wasn’t for me. So I joined a GP training scheme and prepared for a life of therapeutic gossip and viral probability. But to get there, I still had to do two years of hospital jobs, starting with the most inappropriate one imaginable; 6 months on a special care baby unit.
It was the toughest time of my life, trying to put drips, drains, tubes and catheters in the tiniest of babies. Luckily, the nurses saw me coming and when it was quiet, we’d swap roles. They’d do all the high-tech fiddly stuff and I’d fetch the coffee and Hobnobs. But when it was busy, I’d be called into action. In 1988, the training mantra was ‘see one, do one, teach one’. As one consultant advised: ‘If you’re not sure what you’re doing, put on a mask of relaxed brilliance.’ But no mask can calm the panic of a premature birth and dash to special care.
The baby was 32 weeks and not breathing. I looked around for sister. Sister was busy with another baby. I’d done six successful intubations (passing a tube into the trachea to allow ventilation) but never on my own. I chose a tube, I picked up the laryngoscope and prayed my glasses would stay on my sweaty nose long enough to get a good view of the vocal cords. I eased the tube in and fate directed it to the correct hole. As the tiny lungs inflated, Mum placed a lump of amethyst next to her baby ‘for the healing energy.’ An unlikely juxtaposition, even for the West Country.
Some babies get rapidly better, others rapidly worse, but this baby remained in limbo for weeks, unable to come off the ventilator but hanging in there. I’d take blood and fiddle with the ventilator, willing him to thrive with science, while Mum brought in a succession of totems. Healing beads, horse’s hair, homeopathic creams. Nothing either of us did seemed to work. Then one morning, she stuck a picture of the Pope on the incubator and went for a coffee.
Sleep deprivation does odd things to the mind, and for some reason I decided to fashion the Pope a Jimmy Saville wig out of a yellow X-ray form. Sister spotted it, just as Mum returned, whipped it off and turned it upside down. “What’s that?” asks Mum. “It’s Dr Phil’s lucky horseshoe. He made it especially.” From that miraculous moment, her baby picks up. Within a week, he’s off the ventilator. Mum’s overwhelmed, Dad wants to name the baby after me and I’m presented me with an enormous box of chocolates. I give them to sister, obviously. Baby Phil may have escaped special care, but I’ve still got 5 months to survive.
Total Politics Q&A December 2010
If I Were Prime Minister…
What campaign stunt would you pull in a general election and why?
I’d offer babies MMR jabs while I kissed them, and their parents contraception. If we want to save the NHS and the planet, we need to focus on prevention.
Would you take part in a TV debate with leaders of other parties?
Only if bullying was outlawed. Picking on the one with poor social skills who can’t tell a joke is just cruel. Other than that, no notes, no podium, no rules. And I’d hold it in the Ring o’ Bells at Hinton Blewett, so I could have a couple of pints and walk home.
What would your winning political slogan be and why?
I’d rotate slogans. ‘Dogs not Drugs.’ ‘Bring Back Stairs.’ ‘Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay.’ Dogs and exercise are wonder drugs, especially together, and intimacy before taking the plunge is sadly neglected.
What would you travel around the country in and why?
I’d go round in the Popemobile, with the Pope driving. It’s the least he can do after we bank-rolled his visit. And what better way to hand out Dr Phil’s Easy-On Condoms (motto: ‘they roll both ways’)?
Who would be your Alastair Campbell and why?
Nate Borofsky from the band Girlyman. I don’t want to be surrounded by anger, aggression, blame and repressed homosexuality. Their music is full of liberation and joy, and lifts my mood better than any drug. I once advised Nick Clegg to get some Girlyman in his life and look where he is now.
Who would be your George Osborne and why?
Any one of my patients who somehow manages to live on £30 a week. We’re all in this together, ha, ha, ha.
Who would be in your cabinet and why?
I’d pick Shirley Williams and then let her pick the next person, and so on and so on until we had a love train.
What would you legalise and why?
I’d ensure breast feeding filled all those public spaces smoking has vacated. If more mums were able to do it for six months, it would have a profound effect on childhood health and obesity. But six months is a long time and you need to get out of the house. Currently, the public sign for breast feeding is a bottle. We couldn’t be more repressed. And I’d legalise sex work. We all need a minimum wage, the right to say no and a safe place to pleasure each other.
What would you ban and why?
Very bad food. No health service can cope with obesity. The trans-fatty gristle burger should be a class A drug. A Victoria sponge would be class C (you’re allowed a small slice yourself but you mustn’t push it onto other people). The punishment would be to work in a tall building with no lifts, but beautiful, clean, inspiring staircases.
How would you respond to being booed in public?
I’d savour it. Booing politicians is a fine example of safe and sustainable pleasure. For the recipient, it’s much better than indifference (but the dry cleaning bill is higher).
How would you deal with a sex scandal in the cabinet?
We need to grow up about sex. It’s only a scandal if it isn’t consensual. But I’d check they all know how to put a condom on properly. Harder than it looks, especially with fading eyesight.
What would you have as a new national anthem and why?
Love Train by the O Jays. If people all over the world joined hands and start a love train, it would solve most of our problems (although they might need help to put a condom on. I once met a sex worker who can do it with no hands, but most of us need at least three)
What would keep you awake at night and why?
Being reported to the General Medical Council by William Hague’s Press Secretary (it’s happened before, it could happen again. See Sex, Sleep or Scrabble? P 223)
Which pet would you get for No 10 and why?
Two Labradors. They give you unconditional love, keep you active, reduce your blood pressure and even lower your cholesterol (by eating your food). And if you’re too depressed to put your pants on in the morning, they lick your testicles. You don’t get that with Prozac. Or marriage. I’ve already got a golden on and a black one I could bring (that’s Labradors, not testicles)
How would you see off a younger, better looking political rival?
With one of Dr Phil’s Go Quickly Pills.
How would you increase participation in politics?
Explain what politics means. A hundred people, a hundred answers. To me, the central ethical dilemma in life/ sex/ politics/ religion/ healthcare is the responsible use of power. Only by connecting with people can you avoid abusing them. Failing that, I’d make a pledge before the election that affected them profoundly, then break it afterwards just to make them very angry and ‘engaged’.
Who would succeed you as PM?
Nate from Girlyman
What would your commemorative statue look like and be made of and why?
A pair of polished ginger balls, made out of cornelian, to remind us of the Cornelian dilemma at the heart of politics (being obliged to choose between two courses of action either of which will have a detrimental effect on yourself or on someone near to you).
What would you call your memoirs of being PM and why?
‘First do no harm, now give some pleasure.’ We’re all African apes on the briefest of joy rides, but to enjoy life we need to slow down and connect. The secret of pleasure is to pleasure others.
What legacy would you like to leave and why?
I’d only work 48 hours a week as PM. Workaholism is the hidden addiction in politics and the NHS. I’d donate the proceeds of Dr Phil’s Easy-On Condoms to the Herpes Viruses Association (of which I am patron). And I’d give people choice in dying. My wife Jo is also a GP and we have a pact: First one to put CDs in the toaster gets one of Dr Phil’s Go Quickly Pills. You get one free with my DVDs
David Milliband quits to spend time with secret ginger love child
‘Hello I’m Dr Phil’ ‘And I’m Dr Tony’ ‘We’re Struck Off and Die’
So started my first foray into the Edinburgh Fringe twenty years ago. My comedy partner, Tony Gardner, had been before as a student and knew how to survive in a sweltering Masonic lodge at midnight. I took a little longer to acclimatise but by the end of the run, we’d had rave reviews in the national press, been recorded by Radio 4 and were destined to be the next big thing in comedy.
That was the theory. Alas, when the Radio 4 show went out (rather unwisely after the Archers) it got a record number of complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Council, upheld as ‘inappropriate material for a comedy show.’ Radio 4 stuck with us, and we recorded three series of Struck Off and Die, winning a Writers’ Guild and Silver Sony Awards. But we couldn’t get into television. As one producer put it: ‘On the eve of your hip replacement, you don’t want to hear stories of knackered junior doctors cocking up, burning the notes, burying the X-rays and laughing it off in the mess.’
After five seasons at the Fringe, and three hearings at the BSC, we realised Radio 4 was as far as we were going. The reviews were still good, if a little divisive. ‘What makes this show rise above the rest is the genuine comic talent of Tony Gardner.’ I particularly enjoyed that one. Tony often made me corpse on stage and when the show went well, people would cry with laughter (at least I hope that’s what they were doing). But he needed to break out of the straightjacket of the medical revue. So he gave up the day job to try to make it as a professional actor.
Going from the most secure job in the world to the least never appealed to me, so I stuck with my GP training and continued in the comfort zone of medical humour. Tony got work in Armstrong and Miller, Lead Balloon and The Thick Of It, and landed the lead role in My Parents Are Aliens, while I looked at verrucas by day and peddled medical humour in chilly provincial theatres and corporate conferences at night. Having been very close, we drifted apart – partly because we now inhabited different worlds but also because comedy is very competitive, none more so than in a divorced double-act. You pretend to wish your ex-partner well but you secretly want him so struggle without you.
Since our last Struck Off and Die gig, a hospital party in a seedy Croydon hotel in 2001, Tony and I have barely spoken, which is ridiculous considering we were each other’s best men and Tony is Godfather to Will. As my wife Jo cheerfully put it: ‘If you die, shall I even tell him?’ So when my tour took me to Tony’s home city of Colchester in July, I suggested we go for a drink. I didn’t want him to be in the audience – that would really have thrown me – but in any case he was in London, rehearsing for Sheridan’s The Rivals. Ten years after Struck Off and Die, Tony would be touring with Sir Peter Hall and sharing the stage with Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles. They were reopening the refurbished Bath Theatre Royal. And I was telling knob gags in Colchester.
Tony didn’t suggest that I come, but I wanted to, and I wanted Will to meet him. Alas, by the time we booked, the only two tickets were A1 and A2. Any closer and we’d have been on stage with him. I told him we’d be there but not that my Belisha beacon hair would be in his line of sight for two hours. He clocked us but didn’t appear fazed and delivered a faultless performance as Faukland, both funny and touching. The rave reviews have all singled him out, but none of them spotted that his funniest mannerisms and movements were vintage Struck Off and Die.
We had a drink after and carefully slotted back in to friendship. Soul mates are rare and it’s lazy, selfish and foolish to let them go. Oddly, I wasn’t overly jealous of his success. It’s been a struggle to get castings when you have no classical training but Sir Peter Hall clearly knows talent when he sees it. I wonder if he’s got a small part for the ginger one?