David Cameron “chillaxing” and five other leaders who enjoyed the good life while in power

Adam Parris-Long

David Cameron has defended his style of leadership after a new biography of the Prime Minister claimed he often “chillaxes” at the weekend with a number of social activities.

The book, written by journalists Francis Elliott and James Hanning, describes how the Prime Minister winds down at weekends by playing games on his iPad, enjoying a spot of tennis against a machine nicknamed “the Clegger” and on occasions drinking three or four glasses of wine with lunch.

Detailing a wide range of hobbies, the book claims that David Cameron has an ability to “switch off” from politics, unlike his predecessor Gordon Brown.

But Mr Cameron, pictured in Washington DC on Saturday celebrating Chelsea FC’s dramatic Champions League victory, has said he is fully focused on his “extremely demanding” role as PM.

His sentiments were echoed by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who admitted that he often needs a “brandy and a cigar” to make it through the rigours of ministerial life.

“You have to have a little light relief in politics and that's light relief,” he told Sky News. “Everybody has to have some time on their own. I don't want to stand here on behalf of the trade union of minister of the United Kingdom and the western world, but you have to be a workaholic to do it.

"Particularly if you are Prime Minister and you cover the whole scene, you really have to put the work in.”

David Cameron is certainly not the first world leader to make sure work doesn’t completely eclipse his personal life. Here are five other politicians who were also adept at escaping the stresses of being in the hot seat:

Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister 1940-45, 1951-55)

Winston Churchill was known for having a penchant for cigars, brandy and champagne and always found time to enjoy his vices while he was guiding Britain through the war. Churchill famously stated in later life: "Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."

Churchill was also very interested in art and painted many pieces of his own while he was leader. Some of his works later sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds, not least his 'View of Tinherir', which went for £612,800 at auction in 2006. He even wrote a book on his hobby, ‘Painting as a Pastime’, which was published just three years after the end of the Second World War.

Ronald Reagan (US President 1981-89)  

Much of Ronald Reagan’s eight year tenure was punctuated by a series of crises, not least the constant threat of all-out nuclear war with the USSR, so it should come as no surprise that he needed some downtime. So, what did he do? Well, he liked horseback riding.

Reagan’s horseriding trips at Rancho del Cielo, his holiday home, were often caught on camera. He loved the ranch so much that in 1981 he chose to sign the Economic Recovery Tax there while dressed casually in denim and leather boots. 

Tony Blair (British Prime Minister 1997-2007)

Outside of his work as prime minister, Tony Blair had a passion for music. At Oxford University he joined the band ‘Ugly Rumours’, singing and playing guitar. It later emerged that his successful try-out was mostly down to the fact that he was the only auditionee who knew all of the words to The Rolling Stones classic ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.

Commenting on his short-lived music career, he said, “'Every time I've gone on stage, whether for acting, making political speeches or giving lectures, I've always been very nervous. But singing on stage with the band, I just loved it. I was never nervous. I remember really, really enjoying it and thinking, ‘I could probably do this - if I had more talent’.” He would often strum an acoustic while at Number 10.

Junichiro Koizumi (Japanese Prime Minister 2001-06)

Tony Blair is not the only world leader to have had a passion for music. Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a special visit to the US to indulge his love for Elvis Presley, bursting into song on more than one occasion during the trip.

The Japanese premier was guided round Graceland by Presley’s ex-wife Priscilla, while George W Bush entertained him with DVDs of Elvis’ films on board Air Force One. Koizumi was so grateful for the gesture that he said he shared a “heart-to-heart” relationship with the former US president. 

Harold MacMillan (British Prime Minister 1957-63)

Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s love of literature was well-known and during his time as a Conservative backbencher he wrote a three-part book on political philosophy entitled “The Middle Way”. But it was his love of consuming books that defined MacMillan’s premiership.

MacMillan read a huge quantity of material while he was PM from thinkers and former leaders, with Anthony Trollope among his favourite authors. Why was literature an all-consuming part of Macmillan’s life? Author Stephen Vizinczey believes that “reading helped him to understand far more how life works than position papers”.

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