The top ten: Politicians who rejected their first names


An outbreak of Nigels last month – Lawson and Farage – causing trouble for the Prime Minister about Europe reminded me that Nigel is also the first name of Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who joined the fun by demanding a referendum. At which point, Philip Cowley, professor of parliamentary government at Nottingham University, suggested compiling a list of politicians known by their middle names.

1. Ramsay MacDonald

...whose first name was actually James. Also, six other PMs since: Arthur Neville Chamberlain, Robert Anthony Eden, Maurice Harold Macmillan, James Harold Wilson, Leonard James Callaghan and James Gordon Brown. Thanks to Allan Draycott.

2. Boris Johnson

...whose full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, so you can call him Al.

3. Zac Goldsmith


4. Vince Cable

John. With thanks to Matt Chorley.

5. Paddy Ashdown

Jeremy John Durham Ashdown acquired the name Paddy when he moved to Bedford School from Northern Ireland when he was 11.

6. Enoch Powell

John, again. Nominated by Prof Cowley.

7. Nick Raynsford

Which MP's first names are Wyvill Richard Nicolls, asked former Labour MP Tony McNulty. The answer is the minister for London in Tony Blair's government.

8. Mitt Romney

...who is a Willard, after Willard Marriott, family friend and founder of the hotel chain.

9. Barbara Follett

Daphne. Nominated by Ken Penton and the only woman I can find: a minister in Gordon Brown's government and married to Ken, the thriller writer.

10. Keir Hardie

Another James. Nominated by Kerry McCarthy MP.

Next week: The top 10 useful words for which there is no English equivalent. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to