How Stephen Fry hinted at a career in politics

Published: 4 September 2019 at 14:29

Stephen Fry

New book unearths letter to Kinnock: ‘Britain needs you at Downing Street’

Actor, writer, TV presenter and all-round national treasure Stephen Fry hinted in the early 1990s that he was considering adding “MP” to his impressive CV. 

A new book by Dr Richard Carr of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has uncovered archival material which suggests Fry could have swapped the green room of the television studios for the green benches of the House of Commons.

Fry’s Labour Party sympathies were well known, and he appeared in a November 1993 party political broadcast alongside his long-time comedy partner Hugh Laurie. 

But, according to Carr’s new book March of the Moderates, published on 5 September, Fry, an ARU honorary award holder, contemplated taking his political interests one stage further.

In a November 1991 letter to Neil and Glenys Kinnock – held at the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge - he laid out his admiration for Labour’s then leader. Having recently dined with the Kinnocks, Fry told them:

 

“Jesus, Britain needs you at Downing Street.

“If I can be of any help on the trail I’ll do what I can, natch.

“Looking ahead to your second premiership, I am seriously considering the possibility that you may well have me behind you on the government benches in 1995/6 and giving your Whips headaches.”

 

In the end, Kinnock would lose the 1992 election, and, in later years, Fry would fall out of love with New Labour. He opposed the Iraq War and refused to back the party in the 2005 General Election.  But in another world, he could have protested that conflict in the House of Commons.

Dr Richard Carr, Senior Lecturer in History and Politics at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

 

“Stephen Fry is a national treasure. Perhaps he wasn’t being totally serious when writing to Kinnock, but he’d have been an asset to the Commons. If Boris has gone from Fleet Street to Downing Street, who knows how far Fry could have risen?”

March of the Moderates is a strong historical defence of New Labour and the New Democrats. It sheds new light on the relationship between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, and unearths new information on figures such as Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and David Miliband.

The book shows how the centre-left recovered after years in the wilderness and offers signposts for the ways in which Blair and Clinton’s success could again be achieved. March of the Moderates: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and the Rebirth of Progressive Politics, will be published by I.B. Tauris on 5 September, 2019.