Behind the Desk: 30 Intriguing Facts About Prime Ministers Around the Globe

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1Jens Stoltenberg

Jens Stoltenberg

In 2013, former Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg went incognito as a taxi driver in Oslo because he wanted to “hear from real Norwegian voters and that taxis were one of the few places where people shared their true views.”


2. In 2005, Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, insulted Finnish cuisine and joked that Finns ate “marinated reindeer”. In 2008, Finland won an international pizza contest, beating Italy. The name of the winning pizza was “Pizza Berlusconi” which was made of smoked reindeer.


3. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was once caught forging documents simply because the font he used to forge the documents didn’t exist at the time the documents were allegedly created.


4. In 1964, British Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home was almost kidnapped by two students with political motivations. He persuaded them not to by pointing out that his kidnapping would ensure a Conservative victory in the next election. Instead he gave them a case of beer and bid them goodnight.


5. Nguyen Cao Ky, the former Prime Minister of Vietnam moved to Orange County in California after Vietnam War where he opened and ran a liquor store.


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6Harold Holt

Harold Holt

Australian prime minister Harold Holt loved swimming and diving so much that when his press secretary expressed concern about this he said, "Look, what are the odds that a PM would drown or be eaten by a shark?". In 1967, Holt went for a swim in the ocean and was never seen again.


7. Margaret Thatcher was more proud of being the first UK Prime Minister with a science degree than she was of being the first female Prime Minister.


8. Between 2006 and 2007 Poland’s prime minister (Jaroslaw Kaczynski [Right side]) and president (Lech Kaczynski) were identical twin brothers, making them the first brothers in history to hold a country’s prime ministership and the presidency at the same time.


9. When Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau found out Richard Nixon called him an "as*hole", he replied, "I've been called worse things by better people."


10. Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected prime minister of Congo got shot by a firing squad.


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11Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee, widely regarded as the greatest Prime Minister of Britain of the 1900s, said that he believed in "the ethics of Christianity" but not "the mumbo-jumbo."


12. Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett lived in a luxurious 17-room hotel suite in Ottawa for the duration of his time in office between 1930 to 1935. It was during the Great Depression and his government lost when news of his expensive lifestyle became public.


13. Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran who was overthrown by the USA’s CIA in 1953 for having the audacity to nationalize the Iranian oil industry to wrest it from the hands of the United Kingdom and the Americans.


14. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced to apologize to the mother of a dead serviceman in 2009 after he sent her a handwritten letter of condolence that misspelled her name. The Sun tabloid then attacked Brown for making the mistake, and in doing so managed to make the same mistake.


15. The first Canadian Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, appeared so drunk during a debate that he threw up and then said: “I get sick sometimes not because of drink or any other cause, except that I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honorable opponent.”


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16Kantarō Suzuki

Kantarō Suzuki

Japanese Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki narrowly escaped assassination in 1936. The bullet remained inside his body for the rest of his life and was only revealed upon his cremation. Suzuki was opposed to Japan’s war with the United States, before and throughout World War 2.


17. British Prime Minister David Cameron was once part of a youth gang that smashed windows of businesses in Oxford.


18. In 1984, New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon got drunk and decided to spontaneously call a general election, which he lost.


19. India's former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao spoke 17 languages - 8 foreign languages (English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Greek, Latin, and Persian) and 9 Indian languages (Telugu, Hindi, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Urdu).


20. Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister of wartime Japan, was fitted with a new set of dentures by US medical staff after his failed suicide attempt in 1945. Without his knowledge, the medical staff managed to secretly drill into them the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” in Morse code.


21Vidkun Quisling

Vidkun Quisling

Vidkun Quisling, who was the Norwegian prime minister during the Nazi occupation, was sentenced to death 2 years after he introduced the death sentence to the country.


22. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk once gave the visiting president of the USA, Barack Obama, a copy of video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.


23. In 1975, Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India declared martial law for two years, jailed rival politicians without trial, censored the press, and instituted a compulsory mass-sterilization campaign. She was re-elected and is well-honored by the country even today.


24. Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney forged a deep friendship with Queen Elizabeth II. On Canada Day, the Queen asked to clear some time in her schedule to relax with the Mulroney's. A glass of wine in hand, the Queen kicked off her shoes, put her feet up, and started to chat with him about “free spirits.”


25. About 20 days before John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Ngo Dinh Diem, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam was himself assassinated in a CIA-backed coup. Both of their successors would be defined by their failed alliance in the Vietnam War.

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