The stars who swap showbiz glitz for politics

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Image caption, Glenda Jackson as film star and seasoned politician

Singer Wyclef Jean has launched a bid to become president of Haiti.

The musician is the latest in a long line of entertainment personalities who have forged a career in politics - with varying degrees of success. Here is a look at some of the stars who have crossed the divide.

There was a movie actor who started in the 1930s and went on to star in dozens of films and later on the small screen.

Ronald Reagan's Hollywood career was never distinguished and Academy Awards success failed to materialise.

His transition from showbusiness to politics began when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1940s. Two decades later he was elected governor of California.

In 1980 he went all the way and became US president, serving two terms marked out by a thaw in the Cold War and his cordial relations with Margaret Thatcher. He died in 2004.

Chart-topping Congressman

The US has proved to be the land of opportunity where stars have often swapped fame for political clout.

Like Reagan, muscle-bound Austrian-born film actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been elected to serve as California governor.

Singer Sonny Bono served the state in the House of Representatives and remains the only member of Congress to have scored a US chart-topping single.

Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood, meanwhile, was mayor of Carmel for one term, but his film career blossomed and his political aspirations faded.

In the UK, stars of showbusiness have had less success cutting a swathe through the political classes.

A notable exception is Glenda Jackson, who collected a pair of Oscars during her glittering film career, but turned her back on the glamour in 1992 to make her mark as a Labour MP.

She was given ministerial responsibility under Tony Blair, but had to fight for her political life at the election earlier this year.

As the Labour government was defeated and her north London constituency faced boundary changes, the 74-year-old was returned with a wafer-thin majority of 42.

Other famous faces failed in their political bids - presenter Esther Rantzen's anti-sleaze campaign in Luton South resulted in a lost deposit, while ebullient TV chef Rustie Lee made little impact as a UK Independence Party hopeful in previous ballots.

Daily grind

There is one actor who will forever be associated with his EastEnders character - Colin, one of the first gay residents of Albert Square in the mid-1980s.

Michael Cashman entered the European Parliament in 1999 for the Labour Party, and has remained there ever since campaigning on issues including human rights.

Greek singing star Nana Mouskouri also served there for five years, but gave up her seat saying the daily grind of being a politician was too much.

She announced an end to her career in music two years ago, and recently offered her MEP pension to Greece in a gesture to help ease the national debt.

Image caption, Ronald Reagan starred with Doris Day before political greatness beckoned

Mouskouri's countrywoman Melina Mercouri rose to fame in the 1960s after starring in acclaimed film Never On A Sunday, which gained her an Oscar nomination.

The actress and singer entered Greek politics, famously becoming the country's first female culture minister in 1981 and waging a long battle for the Elgin Marbles to be returned by the UK.

Mercouri died in 1994 and was honoured with a state funeral.

In the Philippines, Joseph Estrada was best known as a movie star in a high-profile career spanning more than 30 years.

Known as Erap, his popularity as a figure distanced from the political elite enabled him to claim the ultimate prize in 1998 - the country's presidency.

But the euphoria rapidly went sour when he was forced out of office in 2001 and tried for embezzlement. A pardon from one of his successors saved Estrada from a life sentence.

Back in the UK, the advent of reality TV has enabled politicans to reverse the trend and attempt to become celebrities.

Former Respect MP George Galloway appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006 and famously mimicked a cat with actress Rula Lenska.

At the last election, Galloway came third in the Poplar and Limehouse seat, but he continues to host a regular show on Talksport radio.

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