John Nettleton death: Yes Minister star dies aged 94

Actor played Sir Arnold Robinson in BBC political satire in the Eighties

Isobel Lewis
Friday 14 July 2023 12:18 BST
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Yes Minister star John Nettleton dies aged 94

Yes Minister star John Nettleton has died aged 94, his representatives have confirmed.

The British actor was best known for portraying cabinet secretary Sir Arnold Robinson in the BBC’s political satire sitcom, and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister, in the 1980s.

Nettleton’s death was confirmed by his agent Scott Marshall Partners on Friday (14 July).

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved client and much-loved stage and screen actor John Nettleton at the age of 94,” they told the PA news agency.

“He is survived by his wife Deirdre, three children and five grandchildren.”

Born in Lewisham, London in 1929, Nettleton made a name for himself playing political roles on the small screen.

In Yes Minister and its sequel, Nettleton played civil servant Arnold Robinson, with his character promoted from cabinet secretary to president of the campaign for freedom of information over the years.

Set in a fictional cabinet office, Yes Minister aired from 1980 to 1984. Yes, Prime Minister returned two years later, running from 1986 to 1988.

John Nettleton in 'Brass' in 1983

Nettleton also played Tory MP Stephen Baxter in the British sitcom The New Statesman from 1987 to 1989, and a Ministry of Defence department chief in The Avengers.

The actor appeared in detective dramas Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War, as well as the long-running medical series Casualty. Nettleton notably had a guest role in the Doctor Who episode “Ghost Light” in 1989, appearing opposite Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor.

In the comedy arena, the south-east London native appeared in Kingdom and Brass, as well as 1987’s East Of Ipswich, the latter of which was written by Sir Michael Palin. Nettleton’s most recent TV appearance came in an episode of Stephen Fry’s ITV drama Kingdom in 2008.

His notable film roles came in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons and Roman Polanski’s 2005 take on Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist.

A renowned theatre performer, Nettleton appeared in numerous productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company and London’s Old Vic.

His work at the National Theatre included Alan Bennett’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows in 1990 and Harley Granville-Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance in 2006. For his performance in the latter show, The Guardian’s critic Michael Billington praised Nettleton’s ability to “make something genuinely touching out of his [character’s] misfortune”.

In 1954, he married fellow actor Deirdre Doone, with whom he shared three children.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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