From Trump to Sheridan: Most famous teetotal politicians

US President Donald Trump. Picture: Getty
US President Donald Trump. Picture: Getty
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Donald Trump, despite outward appearances, has never had an alcoholic drink in his life.

The bombastic 45th President of the United States is impressively energetic for being 70 years old, and is fuelled by nothing stronger than KFC and diet coke.

It is a contrast to some of his predecessors in that famous role, Richard Nixon once ordered a nuclear strike against North Korea while worse for wear.

Thankfully, cooler (and more sober) heads prevailed and the world was spared Armageddon until President Nixon had slept on the idea.

But do clean-cut politicians necessarily make for better ones? The White House under President Jimmy Carter was recalled by Ted Kennedy as being a dreary place, with regular reminders that Carter had removed alcohol from the Presidential residence.

Carter and co were not alone. There have been a whole host of politicians, national and international, who have steered clear of the demon drink.

Donald Trump

Trump’s case is arguably the most interesting, because of the amount of speculative writing on his sobriety and how it might affect him.

The tale most often told by the President is that he was affected by the behaviour of his brother Fred, who died in 1981 as a result of his alcoholism.

Fred, who was eight years Trump’s elder, has been used by the President as a salutatory lesson to his own children and others about the dangers of drinking.

But how does that inform Trump’s behaviour? A profile by Newsweek quoted a study called ‘sober siblings’ to determine that Trump may have been damaged more than he admits by his brother’s illness.

They argued that some people in Trump’s position are often control freaks, honest and upfront to a fault and ‘occasionally suffused with rage’.

Jim Murphy

Unlike Trump, the decision of super-fit Murphy to not drink was motivated by his lifestyle, not any familial tragedy.

Murphy, who is also a vegetarian and aspiring vegan, told the Guardian in 2015 that giving up drink was a “New Year’s Resolution in the 1980s”.

He set out to tackle Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and said it was ‘not unnatural not to want to get p***ed’.

Ironically, it was alcohol that proved to be one of the most controversial areas of Murphy’s ill-fated spell at the helm of Scottish Labour.

His plans to allow fans to drink at football matches were roundly criticised, and after an appalling election, the Irn-Bru fan left frontline politics.

Tommy Sheridan

Never in the history of non-alcoholic politicians has someone’s teetotal lifestyle been so crucial to a legal case.

During Sheridan’s high-profile defamation case against a tabloid newspaper, the socialist politician sought to refute details about champagne drinking by testifying, along with others, about his teetotalism.

The firebrand former MSP has never gone into detail about why sunbeds and tea are his only vices, though as a former junior footballer, it may have been about a desire to keep fit.

Sheridan may also have been motivated to avoid the fate, as examined by socialist legend Freidreich Engels wrote, of a drunkard proletariat deliberately dumbed down by capitalist forces.

David Lloyd George

Recognised near universally as one of the greatest Prime Ministers ever to serve in Britain, Lloyd George rounds off our list as a proud teetotaler.

He was a politician who made no secret of how his own sobrirety informed his policy-making, especially with regard to licensing and pubs.

Influenced by temperance groups that sprung up in the years between 1900 and the outbreak of the First World War, the strict baptist Lloyd George was an enthusiastic backer of the 1908 licensing bill, which curtailed hours pubs could open.

The nonconformist church that Lloyd George was a member of, was actually broadly in favour of the prohibition of all alcohol.

The new culture brought in by this law, where pubs had to close in the mid-afternoon, was still instructing publicans in England until the New Labour years of 1997-2010.

While his reforms that ushered in the groundwork for a nascent welfare state are most prominent among his contributions to history, there is no denying the impact of one man’s sobriety on a multi-billion pound industry.