1 9 9 6 (UK)
10 x 30 minute episodes
This political soap opera from Channel 4 purported to “lift the lid on life at Westminster” and charted the progress of naive and idealistic young Tory MP David Dashwood (Dominic Taylor). The series aimed to be as topical as possible, with episodes being updated just hours before transmission – like Drop The Dead Donkey.
Annie’s Bar kicked off with Dashwood clinching an unlikely Tory by-election win in his marginal West Yorkshire constituency (Westling-on-Sea) after the Lib-Dem candidate was involved in a hit-and-run accident.
Thrown to the lions at Westminster, Dashwood was subsequently bullied and threatened by Whips (the worst was nasty Tory Whip Terry Dunning (Larry Lamb), who clearly had it in for the new boy), asked to lie for his Government, and regularly faced the temptations of seductresses.
The action centred around the titular bar, a favoured real-life House of Commons watering hole and gossip spot in the Palace of Westminster (although scenes depicting the corridors of power were filmed at a former mental hospital near Henley in Berkshire).
A number of actual political figures appeared in the series, including Edwina Currie, Tony Benn, Roy Hattersley, Ken Livingstone and Screaming Lord Sutch.
Recorded on videotape, the series was made by Prince Edward’s production company, Ardent – though HRH safely distanced himself from the actual project.
The show was a horrific flop and Channel 4 ditched it after one series because it failed to attract a million viewers.
In reality, ‘Annie’s Bar’ is just one of eight bars and 18 restaurants used by MPs and lobby correspondents at the Palace of Westminster (the most favoured is the ‘Strangers Bar’ – known as “the Kremlin” because of its former left-wing regulars) but has historically attracted mischievous Members and political writers. An unwritten rule prevents anything disclosed in Annie’s from being published.
Vernon Du Chine
Sarah Lee Jones