26 Jan 2015

When Blair, the Queen and Castro fell for the hoax call

Security procedures are being reviewed after a hoax caller was put through to David Cameron – but this isn’t the first time a politician has been at the end of a prank call.

The prime minister said he was out walking with his family yesterday when the call came through on his BlackBerry, just hours after a similar trick was played on GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan. However, Mr Cameron said he quickly hung up after the man on the end of the line admitted: “It’s a hoax.”

In 1998 radio stunt merchant Steve Penk played the trick on Tony Blair as he left his morning briefing with the help of impressionist Jon Culshaw on London’s Capital Radio.

Mr Culshaw put on the voice of then-leader of the opposition William Hague and offered the prime minister a Cher exercise video.

What gave the game away was that Mr Culshaw called him “Tony”, whereas Mr Hague would always have used “prime minister”.

The Queen

One of the most famous hoax calls ever staged came some three years earlier when the Queen chatted on air to a Canadian DJ pretending to be Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien.

Pierre Brassard got through to Buckingham Palace, spoke to the monarch on-air for 15 minutes and elicited a promise for her to influence Quebec’s referendum on proposals to break away from Canada.

The Palace later described the incident as “irritating and regrettable”.

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez

On another occasion, Mr Brassard spoke to pope John Paul II, asking the pontiff if he had ever thought of fixing a toy propeller to his cap.

In 2003, Miami radio station El Zol spoke to late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez pretending to be Cuban president Fidel Castro before reversing the prank by calling Castro posing as Chavez.

Castro famously lost his temper and swore at the DJs live on air after they revealed that “the whole of Miami” had been listening in on the joke.

Royal baby nurse

Sadly, one of the most recent pranks to make headlines led to the death of a nurse at a hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness.

Australian shock jocks Mel Greig and Mike Christian called King Edward VII hospital impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles to ask staff questions about the Duchess’s health.

Indian-born nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who transferred the call to a duty nurse, was found dead three days after the prank was broadcast in December 2012.