The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. 

The Top 10: Actor-Politicians

From Emperor Nero to Michael Gove via Ronald Reagan

John Rentoul
Saturday 04 March 2017 14:26 GMT
Michael Gove, appearing on camera long before he was Education Secretary, Chief Whip, Justice Secretary or Vote Leave campaigner
Michael Gove, appearing on camera long before he was Education Secretary, Chief Whip, Justice Secretary or Vote Leave campaigner

After journalist-politicians, John Peters suggested this list. He suggested the first four. Nominations for Tony Blair were ignored, despite Charles Kennedy once describing the two of them as “actor-managers”, borrowing a phrase applied by Enoch Powell to Harold Macmillan.

1. Ronald Reagan. Emmett Brown, the scientist in Back to the Future, asks who is President in 1985, and says: “Ronald Reagan? The actor?”

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was the Terminator, a robot disguised as a human, in the 1984 film, and Republican Governor of California 2003-11.

3. Glenda Jackson. Elizabeth I in the 1971 TV drama and Labour MP for Hampstead 1992-2015.

4. Andrew Faulds. Shakespearean actor who appeared with Jackson in Ken Russell’s film The Music Lovers, 1971, when he was already Labour MP. He was MP for Smethwick, later called Warley East, from 1966 to 1997.

5. Fred Thompson. Actor before he was elected Senator for Tennessee, an office he held when he joined the cast of Law & Order in 2002. He ran for President, unsuccessfully, in 2007-08. Thanks to David Boothroyd, Schmucklevision and Paul T Horgan.

6. Emperor Nero. Last words: Qualis artifex pereo (“What an artist I die,” or, “Like an artist, I die”). “Shocked many by performing on stage,” said Graham Kirby.

7. Michael Gove. Unusual journalist-actor-politician, played the goggling chaplain in A Feast at Midnight, low-budget boarding-school comedy, 1995. Thanks to Graham Kirby, Sergei Walenkov and Paul T Horgan.

8. Tracy Brabin, late of Coronation Street, now Labour MP for Batley and Spen. Nomination put in the envelope by Jonathan Isaby and Welshornot.

9. Ilona Staller, also called Cicciolina, star of erotic films, and elected Italian MP for Partito Radicale in 1987. Thanks to Chris Hanretty.

10. Michael Cashman. Colin off of EastEnders (recipient of the first gay kiss in 1987). He was an MEP for 15 years before becoming a member of the House of Lords in 2014. Nominated by Robert Hutton.

Honourable mentions for Alwyn W Turner‏, who nominated Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who was in Zulu, 1964, before founding Inkatha and joining the post-apartheid South African government, and for Adam Greves‏, who proposed Donald Trump, who was in Home Alone 2, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Zoolander, Two Weeks Notice, Sex and the City, but not, as I discovered at the Parliamentary Press Gallery Quiz this week, Friends.

Next week: Subjects on which otherwise sane people go a bit loopy, such as daylight saving time

Coming soon: Self-referential songs, such as “You’re So Vain”

The e-book of Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop is just £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in