John Cleese, the actor and comedian, has revealed that he turned down the opportunity to take a seat in the House of Lords.
The Telegraph… The star of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers was offered a peerage by Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, but refused the honour because he could not face spending the winter in England.
Lord Ashdown offered Cleese the chance to take the party whip and sit in the House of Lords as a working peer for the Liberal Democrats shortly before he stepped down as party leader in 1999.
But Cleese, a generous donor to the Liberal Democrats who previously campaigned for proportional representation on behalf of the party and has appeared in several party political broadcasts, declined, because remaining in England during the winter months to fulfil his role as a working peer was “too much of a price to pay”.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph on the eve of his first ever UK live tour, Cleese, who divides his time between the UK and California, said: “I turned down a peerage actually.
“Paddy was going to offer me one when he ceased to be leader of the Lib Dems, for political services – not because I was such a wonderful human being, and because I’d helped them [Lib Dems] a lot.
“But I realised this involved being in England in the winter and I thought that was too much of a price to pay.”
He also said that he previously turned down a CBE in 1996 “because I think they are silly”.
Cleese, 71, will embark on a two-month live tour, An Evening with the Legendary John Cleese, next month.
The tour was previously named The Alimony Tour in reference to the costly divorce from his third wife, Alyce Faye Eichelberger, and will include a series of jokes about his ex-wife.
Ms Eichelberger received more than £12 million from the divorce in 2009, which was settled under Californian law. The couple were married for 16 years but have no children together.
Cleese spoke of his disappointment at the settlement, and his fear that Californian-style marital law is increasingly reflected in high-profile divorces in Britain.
He said: “This is how absurd it is: I have paid her $16 million, I am left with about $8.5 million, out of which I have to pay her another $5 million.
“So she’ll get something like $21 million, and I am left with $3.5 million, and we never had children.
“People say “why didn’t you have a pre-nup?” The answer is I did have a prenup but it had no legal force in the UK and to my astonishment, I found that it didn’t have legal force in the United States either.
“It…only had ‘advisory’ influence. What worries me is that the insanity of Californian marital law is beginning to creep into the UK. That’s alarming.”
Cleese was previously married to Connie Booth, his co-star in Fawlty Towers, and the American actress Barbara Trentham. Both divorces were settled amicably and without lawyers.
Despite three failed marriages, Cleese, who divides his time between California and Bath with his partner, the jewellery designer Jennifer Wade, 40, said that he had not ruled out marrying for a fourth time.
“I like the idea of it,” he said. “I think it’s a lovely idea to spend a lot of time with someone.”
Cleese also spoke about the shift in British attitudes away from a “middle-class culture” and the emergence of a “yob culture”.
He said: “There were disadvantages to the old culture, it was a bit stuffy and it was more sexist and more racist. But it was an educated and middle-class culture. Now it’s a yob culture. The values are so strange.”
He added that he preferred living in Bath to London because the capital no longer felt “English”.
“London is no longer an English city which is why I love Bath,” he said. “That’s how they sold it for the Olympics, not as the capital of England but as the cosmopolitan city. I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.”