Sun readers don’t give a damn who runs the country

Running a website or blog, you’re used to your material being quoted or ripped off but it’s incredible how widely a piece can be picked up. This blog’s sister website Magforum.com has a page on British newspapers. The page begins by quoting a yellowed Guardian diary cutting from the 1980s that begins:

Times readers run the country,
Telegraph readers think they run the country,
Guardian readers wish they ran the country,
Mirror readers would run the country if…

Many web posts use it and quote the source; a Telegraph blog, for example, about Guardian-reading vets. Then there are those who just pick up things as they go. They include:

Wikipedia covers another version of the ryhme quoted in the TV series Yes Minister in 1986 (which I’m pretty sure ran after the Guardian item was published) and the British Democracy Forum has some other variants.

So from Jihad Watch to a South African policy debate; from a democracy forum to TV soap fans. Shows just how popular an idea can be. But, as the late, great Keith Waterhouse once told me: ‘I don’t use other people’s ideas [he was talking about one of mine when I was commissioning an article from him] because you never know where they’ve been.”

I did try to date the original Guardian cutting a few years ago (I think it’s 1980) but the librarians couldn’t help. If anyone does know the origins of the rhyme, I’d like to hear from them.

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2 Responses to “Sun readers don’t give a damn who runs the country”

  1. privatefraser Says:

    It was a Dave Allen gag from the ’70s and I suspect it was current even before then.

    Yours aye,
    James Frazer
    http://privatefraser.wordpress.com/

  2. magforum Says:

    Thanks James – Dave Allen and Keith Waterhouse – two of my heroes in one blog. But the plot thickens. Any advance on Dave Allen? Wierdly, I can’t find any newspaper or magazine quoting the rhyme before 2001 (that was Media Week) despite trawling an electronic archive covering 200+ titles (though these only start carrying content from about 1985). The Guardian Archive (http://archive.guardian.co.uk/) shows no sign of it. Google Books only produces a reference from Punch dated 1990 (shows the weakness of the Google programme in that the text is poorly referenced by a US university).

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