When Britain felt Canada was 'too pushy' in promoting a PM's visit

It was sort of a comedy of manners, except the British players were not, as they say, amused.

Efforts to seek publicity for Brian Mulroney's 1985 trip to London did not amuse the British

Promoting the PM

38 years ago
Duration 2:07
British officials objected to the ways a Canadian official sought publicity for a visit Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was making to London in 1985.

It was sort of a comedy of manners, except the British players were not, as they say, amused.

In 1985, a Canadian official had gone to London to arrange for the upcoming arrival of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who was going to be meeting with both British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Queen during his visit.

That official was Bill Fox, the prime minister's press secretary, which meant that his duties involved setting up the media coverage for that trip.

But according to the CBC's David Halton, his publicity efforts had not gone over well with his British counterparts.

'Exasperated and openly angry'

Man outside in suit jacket with sweater vest underneath
The CBC's David Halton is seen reporting outside 10 Downing Street in April 1985. (The National/CBC Archives)

"In a matter of days, [Fox] left a lot of British officials exasperated and openly angry," Halton reported on The National on April 28, 1985, the day that Mulroney landed in London.

It seemed the British side did not like some of his proposals, such as having a photo taken when Mulroney would be meeting privately with the Queen.

"The Queen never allows such publicity for visiting heads of government and Fox was bluntly told to forget it," said Halton.

The Brits were similarly cool to Fox's ask to install media facilities inside Westminster Abbey, the church where royal coronations and weddings are held.

Not the way the PM saw it

Man in suit and tie with blue sky in background
Shortly after landing in London, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was speaking to reporters and he defended the efforts of his advance man to arrange publicity for his trip. (The National/CBC Archives)

Those weren't the only sticking points between the Canadian PR man and his British counterparts — and Halton said they let the media know "Fox was making unreasonable demands and being 'very, very pushy.'"

Canada's prime minister disagreed with such accusations.

"It is completely false and unbecoming of those who made it," Mulroney said, when speaking to the press shortly after his arrival in London.

Fox seemed unperturbed by the complaints, making it clear he was doing his job and serving the prime minister.

"He said: 'I have absolutely no apologies to make to anyone," according to Halton.

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