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Never ever sing on camera

Nick Robinson | 16:19 UK time, Wednesday, 8 March 2006

That's my free PR advice to ministers - particularly ministers in trouble. Today Tessa Jowell ignored me and sang The Truth Is Marching On in front of a memorial to Emmeline Pankhurst (You can watch it here.) To be fair, it is International Women's Day and she is the minister for women. And yet what she needs to do is to stay out of the news.

She should have remembered the plight of Peter Brooke - the Tory Northern Ireland secretary - who forever regretted singing Oh My Darling on Irish TV or John Redwood - the Tory Welsh Secretary - who pretended to sing the Welsh national anthem but didn't actually know the words, or even that idiot who destroyed his credibility singing Bhohemian Rhapsody on Children in Need.

Today Jowell is facing more questions about her husband's financial dealings and her failure to declare them so the pictures of her singing are a gift to news desks. One Labour MP put it to me that "the precedents are not propitious".

He didn't mean Brooke, Redwood or Robinson. He was referring to David Blunkett - then home secretary - who chose to show it was business as normal by singing "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again".

Soon after he was gone.

Just remembered another political singing howler. Cherie Blair singing When I'm Sixty-Four with Chinese students in Beijing. Perhaps the most famous example was Prime Minister Jim Callaghan singing Waiting At The Church when he revealed that he would not be calling an election in 1978.

The one that got away was also a Callaghan moment - Tony Benn recorded Sunny Jim singing "I'm the fat man, the very fat man who waters the workers' beer" to a TUC dinner. Sadly no cameras were present. Oh, then there was Peter Lilley's little list... memories are just flooding back. (You can hear some of the best/worst here). Anyone got any more suggestions?

Oh, by the way, if you're interested in the story. Number Ten has just let slip that the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has written again to Tessa Jowell.

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