Why Gyles Brandreth Appreciates Glenda Jackson: Talent, Decency, and Seriousness

Gyles Brandreth

I had a deep admiration for Glenda Jackson. We both became Members of Parliament on the same day in 1992. We were considered outsiders since neither of us had a background in politics—she was a famous award-winning actress, and I was a daytime TV presenter. Surprisingly, we formed a strong friendship as we faced the challenges of being newcomers in the House of Commons.

Glenda didn’t particularly enjoy her early days in parliament. Some of her colleagues in the Labour Party didn’t take her seriously because of her acting background. In the evenings, while waiting for votes, she often felt isolated. Even her own party members didn’t approach her, and there was suspicion when she and I were seen together. Glenda found the tribalism and division in Westminster absurd. She despised the confrontational nature of Question Time in the chamber, considering it utterly meaningless.

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I had admired Glenda since the 1960s when I witnessed her remarkable performances with renowned theater companies. Her portrayal of Elizabeth I on television in 1971 captivated the nation, and her on-screen presence and range of talent were truly impressive. She received Oscars for her roles in “Women in Love” and “A Touch of Class.”

I got to know Glenda better in 1984 when I invited her to a party honoring Sir John Gielgud. We shared memorable moments, including a lunch we had with Sir John on his 90th birthday. Glenda’s admiration for him, as well as her interest in his career, brought them closer together. They connected as classical stage actors who found success in Hollywood and TV. Glenda even played Lear in 2016 after a 23-year hiatus from the stage, delivering an extraordinary performance.

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During our time as MPs, I often told Glenda that she was wasting her talents in politics, but she believed in the importance of her work. When she ran for London Mayor, I encouraged her to smile more, and she promised to try. We shared laughs together, and on certain occasions, she was ready to poke fun at herself. Glenda was far from foolish; she was a brilliant actress, a dedicated representative for her constituents, and a respected government minister. She pursued her passions and gave her best in everything she did.

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I believe Glenda saw me as a well-intentioned but lightweight companion, drawn to our mutual love for Shakespeare, Sir John Gielgud, and politics. In my eyes, she was an exceptional and unique individual. I admired her immensely for her immense talent, her integrity, and her seriousness in all aspects of life.