The Top 10: Politician-Sportspeople

If politics is physical competition by other means, here are 10 winners who have changed their arena

John Rentoul
Saturday 09 June 2018 14:54 BST
Liberal elite: Menzies Campbell breaks the finishing tape in 1964
Liberal elite: Menzies Campbell breaks the finishing tape in 1964 (Getty)

This list was suggested by the G-Man, after we did actor-politicians and journalist-politicians.

1. Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats 2006-07. British 100 metres record holder 1967-74.

2. Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall. Northern Ireland high jump champion, 1966.

3. Alec Douglas-Home, prime minister 1963-64. “Only British prime minister to play first-class cricket,” said Richard Boston. Also nominated by David Boothroyd and Dunstan Handley. Played 10 first-class matches for six teams including Middlesex and Oxford University. Batting average: 147 runs at 16.33. Bowling: 12 wickets at 30.25; he conceded 363 runs, the same as his number of days as prime minister.

4. Imran Khan, leader of the third largest party in Pakistan’s national assembly. First-class cricketer in Pakistan and England and captain of Pakistan 1982-92. Suggested by Jeremy Lawford and Robert Boston.

5. Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kiev. WBC world heavyweight boxing champion, 2004-05 and 2008-13. His party is called Удар, “Punch” in English. Nominated by Adam Greves.

6. Tracey Crouch, sports minister. Qualified FA football coach.

7. Gustaf Mannereim, president of Finland 1944-46. Horse rider. “I hope you won’t forget the Finnish presidents,” wrote Anetta Pirinen. Urho Kekkonen, president 1956-82, was the Finnish high jump champion in 1924; Mauno Koivisto, president 1982-94, played volleyball; and the incumbent Sauli Niinisto survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by climbing a utility pole with his son Matias in Khao Lak, Thailand.

8. Henry McLeish, Labour first minister of Scotland 2000-01. Played football for East Fife FC in the 1960s. “McLeish also attended Buckhaven High School, as did Ruth Davidson and Martha Wardrop, the Scottish Green Party’s former co-convenor,” said Alan Robertson.

9. Idi Amin, president of Uganda 1971-79. Ugandan national boxing champion 1951-60. Thanks to Cameron.

10. Matthew Parris, Conservative MP for West Derbyshire, 1979-86. Recorded what Patrick Walsh said was probably the best time for a marathon of any politician in the world: 2 hours, 32 minutes and 57 seconds in London in 1985. Inspired by Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, who claimed he had once run one in “two hours 50-something”, only for his real time of 4:01:25 to be found, Patrick suggested seven other politicians who have run the marathon. Al Gore did it in 4:58:25. Sarah Palin had a personal best of 3:59:36. George W Bush did the Houston Marathon in 3:44:52 in 1993; Michael Dukakis’s best was 3:31:00; John Edwards, John Kerry’s vice-presidential running mate in 2004, just beat him on 3:30:18. Among British politicos, Alastair Campbell’s best time is 3:53:45. Dominique de Villepin, former French prime minister, did 2:57:06.

A lot of nominations for this list. Honourable mentions for John Peters, who nominated Garry Kasparov (I ruled chess not a sport) and Pele, later Brazilian minister of sport (I ruled not really a politician); and for Mr Memory, who proposed Philip Noel-Baker, the only person to win an Olympic medal (1,500 metres silver, 1920) and a Nobel Peace Prize, and who was incidentally a cabinet minister (Labour, 1947-51) as well.

In the “there’s always one” category: Harris nominated Tony Blair for his 27-header rally with Kevin Keegan in 1995.

Next week: Demolished buildings, such as the old Euston station and its arch

Coming soon: Countries That Used to be “The”, such as The Ukraine

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to

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