Prime Ministers on the Underground

This day 160 years ago on the 10th January 1863, the world’s first underground railway opened. Lord Palmerston the 80-year-old prime minister was invited to travel on its inaugural journey, but he famously declined to state that: “He wanted to spend the time he had left above the ground”.

A decade later former prime minister William Gladstone travelled by tube on his journey to Westminster Hall, after dying from heart failure. Dr Barnardo, the founder of the eponymous charity, is the only other person known to have travelled by Underground in their coffin.

Since that opening, as the network expanded from the original Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farrington, prime ministers and future premiers have been keen to appear to travel with the people.

In the film Darkest Hour, we had Winston Churchill taking 5 minutes to travel one stop on the District Line to Westminster Station, the TfL timetable puts the journey at 120 seconds, but no matter, there’s a war on, artistic license and all that. The film’s screenwriter Anthony McCarten’s research found Churchill going AWOL, disappearing and popping up somewhere in London after asking fellow travellers their opinion of the war.

Other prime ministers have been less shy of publicity, Tony Blair once he had ensured the cameras were rolling, just had to travel on the newly built Jubilee Line to the new Millennium Dome.

David Cameron apparently often travelled on the tube claiming it was faster than the ministerial car and encouraged other members of his cabinet to do likewise.

So, you never know, on your commute you might strike lucky and have Rishi sitting alongside you with no way of escaping your criticisms.

Featured image: Mind The Gap by DriveThruCafe

2 thoughts on “Prime Ministers on the Underground”

  1. I doubt the oily Sunak has ever been on the tube, or on a bus. He didn’t even know how a chip and pin card worked when he faked his ‘petrol-buying’ stunt.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Like

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