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Yesterday’s post looked at the beginning of today’s modern Conservative Party in the late 20th and early 21st century, including Boris Johnson’s diverse family history.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have added to their number of accomplished MPs, people who have really achieved something in their lives before they entered Parliament.

The list of MPs whose immediate ancestry includes parents from Asia and Africa continues below.

The Cameron years: May 2010 – June 2016

In the 2010 election, when David Cameron became Prime Minister, several more Conservative MPs of colour took their places in Parliament.

Most are still serving today, listed below.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)

Rehman Chishti was born in Pakistan on October 4, 1978.

At the time, his father, Abdul Rehman Chishti, was Federal Adviser on religious affairs to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, the region where the Chishtis lived. This was during the time when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Pakistan’s prime minister. In 1978, Chishti’s father left Pakistan for the UK, where he became an imam. Shortly afterwards, a military coup overthrew the Bhutto government. General Zia-uk-Haq led the coup and later executed Bhutto.

It was not until 1984 that Mrs Chishti was able to join her husband in Kent, taking with her their elder daughter and young Rehman. From that point, life resumed a sense of normality for the family. Rehman Chisti attended local schools, then read law at University of Wales Aberystwyth. He supplemented his income by working summer jobs in retail in Kent.

In 2001, he became a barrister, having been called to the Bar of England and Wales by Lincoln’s Inn in London. He prosecuted and defended cases in Magistrates’ and Crown courts.

During the years when Labour was in power, he worked as an advisor for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir Bhutto, after her tumultuous term as Pakistan’s prime minister had ended. Chishti held this position between 1999 and 2007.

In 2006, he decided to switch his affiliation from Labour to Conservative and served as advisor on diversity to Francis Maude, who led the Conservatives at that time.

He won his first election as MP for Gillingham and Rainham in 2010, having been lauded by both Labour and Conservative publications as being a rising star in Parliament.

Since then, he has held three notable appointments: Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Communities (2018), Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Pakistan (2017-2018) and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2019-2020).

Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald)

Another MP serving Kent is Helen Grant.

Helen Grant was born in Willesden (London) in 1961. Her mother is English and her father a Nigerian, an orthopaedic surgeon.

Helen’s parents split up when she was a young child. Her father later emigrated to the United States. Helen and her mother moved to Carlisle, in the north-West of England, where she was raised by her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother. They lived on a council estate.

She excelled in sports at secondary school and decided to read law at university. She later opened her own law practice, Grants Solicitors, which specialises in family law.

She was a member of the Labour Party between 2004 and 2006, but quickly grew disillusioned:

It was almost looking in the biscuit barrel, not liking the look of the biscuits, and slamming the lid shut.[6]

In 2006, she joined the Conservative Party. That year, she helped the Conservatives devise a policy on family breakdown, co-authoring the Social Justice Policy Group Report ‘State of the Nation – Fractured Families’ published in December 2006, and the follow-up solutions report ‘Breakthrough Britain’ published in July 2007.[8]

Grant became the first mixed-race/black female MP, succeeding the formidable Anne Widdecombe, who stood down for the 2010 election.

Helen Grant married her husband Simon in 1991. They have two sons, one of whom served in the Royal Marines.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne)

Kwasi Kwarteng, who represents Spelthorne in Surrey, is familiar to anyone who has followed Brexit and the Government department BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).

Kwasi Kwarteng’s parents emigrated from Ghana in the 1960s when both of them were students. His mother became a barrister and his father an economist in the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Kwarteng was a brilliant student. As a boy, he attended Colet Court, the feeder school for St Paul’s School. Kwarteng went one better. He attended Eton.

At Eton, he was a King’s Scholar and received the school’s most prestigious award: the Newcastle Scholarship. He read classics and history at Trinity College, Cambridge, earning a First in both subjects.

During his time at Cambridge, he appeared on University Challenge during the first season when the BBC resurrected the show in 1994. I saw it. The episode that he was on aired in 1995 and raised eyebrows. Kwarteng pressed the buzzer to answer the question, then forgot the answer. Exasperated, he spontaneously uttered the ‘f-word’. The production team was unable to censor it in time.

Guido Fawkes has the details:

This photo of a resulting newspaper article comes from Guido. Moderator Jeremy Paxman is pictured:

After earning his degree at Cambridge, Kwarteng was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship from Harvard. After studying there, he returned to Cambridge to earn a PhD in economic history.

He then had a busy career, combining work with journalism. He was a columnist for The Daily Telegraph and worked at investment banks, among them JPMorgan Chase. He also wrote and co-authored books on history and business.

At the time he won his first election as MP for Spelthorne, a local paper described him as a:

black Boris.

Kwarteng was an ardent supporter of Brexit and Boris Johnson. He also thinks that Britain’s welfare state needs to be pared back.

Kwarteng has held a variety of positions in Government and is the first black MP — and the first Conservative MP — to be appointed as a Secretary of State.

He is also a member of the Privy Council.

Priti Patel (Witham)

Priti Patel has been Home Secretary since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in 2019.

She held various Government posts prior to that appointment.

Priti Patel was born in London in 1972. Her paternal grandparents were from Gujurat, India, then emigrated to Uganda. They owned a shop in Kampala.

In the 1960s, the Patels’ son and his wife — Priti’s parents — emigrated to England, settling in Hertfordshire, where they built up a successful chain of newsagents. The family are Hindu.

Unlike a few of the other MPs profiled above, Priti never flirted with the Labour Party. She was a firm fan of Margaret Thatcher, who, in her words:

had a unique ability to understand what made people tick, households tick and businesses tick. Managing the economy, balancing the books and making decisions—not purchasing things the country couldn’t afford”.[8]

Patel was always interested in politics. After completing her degree in economics at Keele University in Staffordshire, she studied British government and politics at the University of Essex.

She began her career working in the Conservative Central Office. As she was interested in seeing the UK leave the EU, she left for two years to head the office of the Referendum Party, headed by the late tycoon Sir James Goldsmith. That was between 1995 and 1997. Goldsmith’s party did not win many votes. We still have the campaign video tape, which Goldsmith’s campaigners sent to certain constituencies he had hoped to carry. Goldsmith died two months after the election.

Patel returned to the Conservatives, working for party leader William Hague in his press office.

In 2006, she became the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the staunchly Conservative constituency of Witham in Essex. By 2010, she was well known and won election handily.

She became part of the ‘class of 2010’, also known as ‘the new Right’. She and her fellow ‘classmates’ Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss, Dominic Raab and Chris Skidmore co-authored Britannia Unchained, which took strong exception to the welfare state. One of the book’s more controversial statements is:

once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world.

I don’t fully agree with that, but I do worry about the effect that lockdown and furlough are having on our collective psyche in that regard.

Priti Patel is married and has one child, a son.

Alok Sharma (Reading West)

In 2010, Alok Sharma won Reading West with a majority of 6,004 after Labour MP, Martin Salter retired.

Alok Sharma was born to a Hindu family in Agra, India, in 1967. Five years later, he and his parents settled in Reading, Berkshire, where Alok’s father became very involved in Conservative Party politics and helped to establish the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India.

The Sharmas sent their son to local schools, including the well-respected Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning, Berkshire. Alok moved to the north-West for university, earning a BSc in Applied Physics with Electronics in 1988.

However, Alok’s interests extended beyond science. He later qualified as a chartered accountant with Deloitte, Haskins & Sells in Manchester. He went on to work as a corporate financial advisor for other firms, leading to posts not only on London but also in Stockholm and Frankfurt. He advised clients on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, listings and restructurings.[8]

Sharma has held several posts as Minister of State and Secretary of State.

He is currently the President for the climate change conference COP26, which the UK will host in 2021. Sharma is currently a full member of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Office.

Sharma married a Swedish lady, with whom he has two daughters.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon)

Nadhim Zahawi is best known for his current post as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment in the UK.

He is second-best known for co-founding the international polling company YouGov with Stephan Shakespeare. Zahawi served as YouGov’s CEO from 2005 to 2010.

Zahawi was born to Iraqi Kurdish parents in Bagdad in 1967. In 1976, when Saddam Hussein began his rule over Iraq, the Zahawis moved to London, where Nadhim attended independent day schools.

Nadhim earned a BSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of London.

However, immediately after university, Zahawi’s interests lay with the Kurds. He worked on their behalf from 1991 to 1994.

In 1994, he was elected as a local Conservative councillor for Putney in south-West London. He held that post until 2006.

In 2010, he gained the attention of the local Conservative association in Stratford-on-Avon and became their prospective parliamentary candidate. He has been re-elected three times since: 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Zadawi has held two Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State posts, the first for Children and Families and the second for Business and Industry.

Zadawi and his wife are keen horse riders. They co-own a riding school. Their children attend university in the United States.

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid was also among the 2010 intake. I will cover his life story this week, as it is worth a separate post.

Conclusion

Had I not been watching BBC Parliament so often, I would not have read the life experiences of many of our MPs.

I had watched the maiden speeches of those who entered Parliament in 2019, however, I had missed those of the MPs who came before them.

One can imagine that Boris, given that his paternal great-grandfather was lynched in Turkey, would appreciate every element of life experience and intelligence that this intake of MPs brings to the House of Commons.

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