Thursday, 28 April 2016

British Gas Austerity Advert (1978-1979)

In 1978 the government faced budgetary problems on all fronts. The NHS, for example, risked collapse following an all-out doctors' strike, which had been triggered by the health secretary's insistence that doctors continue to work after they die and attend to patients via séance.

Desperate to reduce the numbers of patients straining NHS resources, the health secretary eventually struck upon an idea that would allow him to kill at least two birds with one stone.

British Gas was in the process of being privatised and the health secretary had a controlling financial interest in the company that was being groomed to acquire ownership. The health secretary lobbied for a short-term reduction in the cost of coal gas, particularly in areas of high unemployment, and promoted it as an aid to health akin to mountain or sea air.

He also had a hand in secretly funding a BBC "Play for Today" drama called "Noble Gas for Noble Gary" which extolled the virtues of a sick, working-class man who, along with several out-of-work comrades, commits suicide by putting his head in an unlit gas oven so as not to burden society. The men were portrayed as heroes to be emulated.

The health secretary's ideas became conflated in the public mind and by 1979 suicide by gas became an unlikely health fad spawning an array of books, cassettes and evening classes, all of which were produced by a company in which the healthy secretary also had shares.


  1. The article fails to mention that as the population dropped, so did BG's revenues. This led to shareholders demanding additional legislation requiring continued payments by deceased customers as well as allowing surcharges by BG to NHS for "palliative care services".

    1. The Palliative Care Service charges were for tenderizer, seasoning, marinade and steak sauces necessary for the practical disposal service of the deceased patient.There was also a add in tax for gas oven and aluminum foil costs..

  2. Did Scarfolk, very sensibly, manage to stick to town gas in the face of the general move across the rest of the country towards the annoyingly non-toxic natural gas in the 1960s and 1970s?

    If so, bravo! If not I guess at least while people's heads are in ovens they're not doing anything and also not not doing nothing, which is a not wholly to be unwelcomed worst case scenario.

  3. Echoes of the initiative put in place during the mid 19th century at the height of the great canary shortage, when unemployed men, derelicts and street urchins were used in coal mines to detect firedamp.
    Good old fashioned common sense. Bravo Scarfolk.

  4. I always knew that Slyvia Plath's death was an NHS conspiracy!!!!!!!!

  5. My neighbour has just installed central heating. But it can't be good for the wood and I've told him so. I'm sticking to coal.

  6. In general terms the poorer a nation the more beggars and street children you will see on your travels. If you want to help whatever you do be sure not to give money. Helping street children is not quite as easy as we would wish. Street urchins

  7. Common courtesy demands that the departure ready should pre-baste themselves,lying on a 'bed'of nice root veggies.A bottle of red wine and a dessert are expected,as well!