Michael Brown (British politician)

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For other people named Michael or Mike Brown, see Michael Brown.

Michael Russell Brown (born 3 July 1951) is a former Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom and is now a newspaper and broadcast political journalist. He was a member of parliament (MP) from 1979 to 1997.


Brown was educated at the Andrew Cairns Secondary Modern School, Sussex, and the University of York, where he was friends with, and a contemporary of both Harvey Proctor and Christine Hamilton (née Holman).[1] He later studied for a year at the Middle Temple. He worked as a graduate management trainee for Barclays Bank from 1972 to 1974 then as a lecturer and tutor at Swinton Conservative College from 1974 to 1975. From 1975 to 1976 he was a part-time research assistant to Michael Marshall MP, working for Nicholas Winterton MP from 1976 to 1979.[2]

Elected MP[edit]

Brown was selected for the marginal constituency of Brigg and Scunthorpe and was elected at the 1979 general election.

In 1983, following favourable boundary changes, he was elected for the new seat of Brigg and Cleethorpes. This followed a bitter selection battle between Brown and Michael Brotherton, who was MP for the Louth constituency, which included the towns of Immingham and Cleethorpes. Brown's robust style is considered to be the factor which swung the party members to support him over Brotherton.

Right-wing activity[edit]

Brown was involved in the right-wing Conservative circles including the Monday Club, the Eldon League and the No Turning Back Group. Big Brother 6 contestant and Monday Club activist, Derek Laud served as Brown's research assistant for a considerable time as an MP.

Brown regarded Michael Portillo as one of his closet friends in the early years of the 1980s claiming, "we hit it off right away." He accompanied Portillo on holidays with other friends including Derek Laud.[3] Brown was a founding member of the No Turning Back group which included Michael Portillo, Peter Lilley and Neil Hamilton in its ranks.

Brown threatened to resign from parliament when the village of Killingholme, in the centre of his constituency was marked as a potential site for nuclear dumping.[4]

South Africa[edit]

Brown was a supporter of the South African apartheid regime and visited South Africa with Neil Hamilton on a trip paid for by the South African Government in February 1988. Hamilton went on "another free trip, alongside his ex Monday Club colleague, Michael Brown, on a winter tour in the South african sunshine paid for by the apartheid regime." [5]

In 1990, Brown's protege, Derek Laud became active on behalf of the apartheid regime's puppet administration of Namibia (South West Africa) in a lobbying company called Strategy Network International and founded by Stephen Govier. Strategy Network International "lobbied for the apartheid regime's causes, including their puppets in Namibia and the UNITA rebels in Angola. Their representative was a bizarre figure in the circumstances, a good looking protege of Michael Brown, who referred to him as 'little Derek.'" Brown recommended Hamilton to Laud who became a lobbyist for the company. [6]

Parliamentary Career[edit]

Brown served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Douglas Hogg, Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry, from 1989 to 1990, and then at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1990 to 1992. From 1992 to 1993 he was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He was appointed as an Assistant Government Whip in 1993.

Cash for Questions Scandal[edit]

During his parliamentary career, Brown required a reputation as an MP who was willing to take take 'hospitality' and return the favour. Andrew Roth's Parliamentary Profiles described Brown as "an assiduous free tripper who repays his hosts.' Parliamentary Profiles, Andrew Roth. Some of Brown's activities were investigated during the Cash for Questions parliamentary scandal, Brown admitted to, and apologised for, accepting money to lobby on behalf of US Tobacco without declaring it. Non Declaration of Interest He was alleged to have received £6,000 from Ian Greer Associates for lobby on behalf of US Tobacco, and failed to declare it in the Register of Members' Interests or to ministers.

Tax Evasion He was further alleged to have not declared the income from Ian Greer Associates until the payments became publicly known.

The Parliamentary investigation found that Brown failed to register an introduction payment from Mr Greer on behalf of US Tobacco and he "persistently and deliberately" failed to declare an interest in Skoal Bandits in his dealings with ministers over the issue. He did not immediately declare the payment to the Inland Revenue. Brown with Neil Hamilton, against the banning of Skoal Bandits, which were believed to cause mouth cancer. Mr Brown also received a free flight to Connecticut to be briefed by the company which he did record in the Register of Members' Interests.[7] [8]

Resignation after outing[edit]

He resigned in 1994 after The News of the World published pictures of him on holiday in Barbados with a 20-year-old gay man. At the time, the age of consent for gay sex was 21 so the paper ran the story under the headline "Lawmaker as lawbreaker".[9] He subsequently acknowledged his homosexuality.[10]

After Westminster[edit]

Brown lost the election for the new Cleethorpes seat at the general election on 1 May 1997. Initially he struggled to find employment, working for David Evans contract cleaning firm but in April 1998 he submitted a piece for The Independent on how he was looking forward to being canvassed by the Labour Party candidates for his area in the Westminster City Council elections, which would give him an opportunity to play the kind of tricks voters often play on election candidates.

The piece was published and was well received. It led to a regular commission as a political sketchwriter for The Independent starting in 1999,[11] as well as political commentary for other newspapers. He regularly appears as a commentator and newspaper reviewer on British television, particularly on BBC News 24 and Sky News.


  1. ^ Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament. David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy Page 50 ISBN 1857026942
  2. ^ Austin, Tim (May 1997), The Times guide to the House of Commons, Times Books, p. 104, ISBN 0-7230-0956-2 
  3. ^ Tory Wars by Simon Waters, Page 188 ISBN 1-84275-026-7
  4. ^ Baggott, Rob (1995), Pressure groups today, Manchester University Press, p. 200, ISBN 0-7190-3579-1 
  5. ^ Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament. David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy Page 50 ISBN 1857026942
  6. ^ Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament. David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy Page 50 ISBN 1857026942
  7. ^ Christian Wolmar (9 April 1997). "Election '97: Cash-for-questions row Tory adopted in secret". The Independent. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Independent: The sleaze report: Five men who fell below the standards that Parliament demands from an MP, 4 July 1997
  9. ^ Brown, Michael (30 July 2002). "Shock news: there are gay MPs in the Tory party". The Independent. 
  10. ^ Morton Rayside, David (1998). On the fringe: gays and lesbians in politics. Cornell University Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8014-8374-5. 
  11. ^ Brown, Michael (20 February 1999), "The Week in Westminster: Pinochet and policing prove tougher than yobs for Straw", The Independent, retrieved 24 December 2010 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Ellis
Member of Parliament for Brigg and Scunthorpe
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Brigg and Cleethorpes
Constituency abolished