Art of avoiding the media monster

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 May, 1997, 12:00am

Harold Wilson was prime minister of Great Britain in the 1960s and he was very good at keeping his two sons out of the limelight.

Mary Wilson hated the idea of the family living in Downing Street, so the family lived most of the time in another house in London. This low-key approach was easy for the Wilson family - 30 years ago the media was much less powerful than today. There was little interest in the exploits of politicians' children.

But things were different when the Thatcher family moved into Number 10. The press and television were hungry for stories to entertain the masses and Lady Thatcher's son was an ideal subject.

Mark, 23, was ready to use all the opportunities his mother's position threw his way. The world's press loved his high profile and his champagne life- style. But things didn't go as planned. Mark developed an unhappy knack of causing minor embarrassments. By the time he got lost in the African desert during a motor rally, he had become a figure of fun. He soon moved to America.

Mark's sister, Carol, never tried to benefit from her mother's position and chose to live her life well away from publicity.

In recent years, John Major's two children have been largely successful at keeping themselves to themselves. Most people didn't even know that their prime minister had a daughter called Elizabeth, and this was exactly what young Miss Major wanted.

But scandals in high places are almost commonplace in the British press, and the private lives of politicians' children were small fry compared to what the Royal Family was getting up to.