The Top 10: Jobs held by former prime ministers

John Rentoul

This list was suggested by Will Cooling when David Cameron was reported last November to have said (he denied it) he wanted to come back as foreign secretary. “I too am at that stage of a book where I would rather be foreign secretary,” commented Stephanie Merritt.

1. Chief ranger and keeper of Hyde Park and St James’s Park. Duke of Wellington, prime minister 1834. “And he remained commander-in-chief,” said Graham Kirby.

2. President of the International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain. Arthur Balfour, prime minister 1902-05 (and then foreign secretary 1916-19, when he was author of the Balfour Declaration). “I would recommend something similar for David Cameron.” Another from Graham Kirby.

3. TV chat show host, presenting the BBC TV show Friday Night, Saturday Morning. Harold Wilson, prime minister 1964-70 and 1974-76. One of his guests was Harry Secombe. “It was not well reviewed,” said Paul T Horgan. Also nominated by PD Anderson and Henry Zeffman.

4. Restaurateur and cookery show host. Don Dunstan, premier of South Australia 1970-79. Thanks to John Peters.

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5. Narrator of The Rocky Horror Show. Rob Muldoon, prime minister of New Zealand 1975-84. Nominated by Peter Metcalfe and Jerry Mouse.

6. Foreign secretary. Alec Douglas-Home, prime minister 1963-64. He then served in Ted Heath’s cabinet, the kind of thing that used to be more common, giving people ideas about David Cameron’s future.

7. Potter. Morihiro Hosokawa, Japanese prime minister 1993-94. WarGit said his pottery has been exhibited around the world.

8. President of Russia. Vladimir Putin, Russian prime minister 1999-2000 and 2008-12 (president 2000-08 and 2012 to the present).

9. Barcelona city councillor – opposed to Catalan independence. Manuel Valls, French prime minister 2014-16. Thanks to Will Cooling and James Ross.

10. Prison librarian? Robertson Barley said: “I might be getting ahead of events though…”

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Stephen Daisley produced a top 10 Australian prime ministers alone: judge (Edmund Barton, prime minister 1901-03); set up Australian equivalent of the Automobile Association (Chris Watson 1904); British MP (George Reid 1904-05); high commissioner to UK (Andrew Fisher 1908-09); treasurer (finance minister) (Joseph Cook 1913-14); attorney general (Billy Hughes 1915-23); health minister (Earle Page 1939); treasurer (Arthur Fadden 1941); deputy prime minister (John McEwen 1967-68); and defence minister (John Gorton 1968-71).

Next week: Ideas to control the weather, after Donald Trump suggested nuking a hurricane.

Coming soon: MPs’ first speeches (should we call them maiden speeches any more?), after Lisa Forbes, the new MP for Peterborough, who I thought made a good debut in last week’s brief parliamentary sitting

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

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