Prime ministers and their weird counterparts: A potted history

Ed Miliband admitted last week that while his public image has struggled because he is not as photogenic as David Cameron, politics should be about substance and not style.

But looking at the big hitters in British politics over the past three decades, John Rentoul reckons they were all a bit weird anyway…

Ed Miliband

For someone elected to the Labour leadership on the slogan "Ed speaks human", with the implication that he was normal and his brother was weird, Ed has had a rough four years.

But he's still here and however much focus groups take one look, shake their heads and say, "No," people still tell opinion pollsters they will vote Labour in sufficient numbers to make him prime minister.

David Cameron

There is more going on behind that polished exterior than is apparent in the baby-blue eyes. He's like a prototype Blair: a hologram with an occasional glitch that reveals the bullying, bad-tempered human underneath.

And he married Samantha, with a dolphin tattoo on her ankle, who wanted "Wonderwall" at their wedding (they got Mozart instead). And he's got a nose like a dairylea triangle.

Gordon Brown

You want weird? A character less suited to high political office in the always-on media age than any since Clement Attlee.

Shy, self-critical, blind in one eye, with a quick wit that was never on display and an increasingly well-known but never seen foul temper.

Although a senior civil servant once said that Brown was mad on the outside but normal on the inside, whereas Blair was the other way round.

Tony Blair

One of the most unusual psychological specimens to have made it to the top of politics. His surface reasonableness conceals exceptional levels of self-control and the calculating playing of other people's weaknesses.

His memoir, A Journey, an experiment in publishing without an editor, reveals a brilliant political mind with almost no structure at all.

John Major

The most normal of all recent prime ministers, who listens to Acker Bilk (for younger readers, middle-of-the-road 1960s clarinet), watches cricket and quotes George Orwell about warm beer and old maids.

Rose by being polite and friendly, concealing his views on the Tory civil war, and being in the right place at the right time - namely having his wisdom teeth removed when Thatcher fell.

Margaret Thatcher

Patently exceptional, not just as a woman who rose to the top of a man's world, but in her work rate, attention to detail and her ability to work on little sleep.

While some of her outlook was utterly conventional for her generation, she could see a future that worked at a time when the general opinion was that it was better to give up and live with relative failure.

More: Classic films improved by Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich

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