Pipe-smoking PM Harold was good at creating right image

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A furore has arisen over the BBC’s politically correct (and absurd) decision to play down the extent of Harold Wilson’s pipe smoking in a documentary about the former prime minister.

It reminded me of a tale about how cunning the old rascal was when it came to creating his avuncular image – without the aid of spin doctors.

He was due to take part in a television programme when he misplaced his trusty prop.

‘Quick, find it!’ he ordered an aide, before sauntering on set clutching the pipe as filming began.

‘Oh dear, look at me,’ he beamed innocently.

‘I’d completely forgotten I still had my pipe with me!’

Thus the image of a relaxed, fatherly figure was instantly reinforced.