Andrew Adonis, Baron Adonis

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The Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis.jpg
Andrew Adonis in 2010
Vice Chairman of the European Movement
Assumed office
15 January 2019
PresidentMichael Heseltine
Vice PresidentKenneth Clarke
Baroness Joyce Quin
ChairmanStephen Dorrell
Preceded byRichard Corbett
Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission
In office
5 October 2015 – 29 December 2017
DeputySir John Armitt
ChancellorGeorge Osborne
Philip Hammond
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded bySir John Armitt
Secretary of State for Transport
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byGeoff Hoon
Succeeded byPhilip Hammond
Minister of State for Transport
In office
3 October 2008 – 5 June 2009
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byRosie Winterton
Succeeded bySadiq Khan
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and Learners
In office
29 June 2007  – 3 October 2008
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byhimself
Succeeded byThe Baroness Morgan of Drefelin
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools
In office
10 May 2005  – 28 June 2007
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byThe Lord Filkin
Succeeded byhimself
Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit
In office
7 June 2001 – 4 September 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byDavid Miliband
Succeeded byGeoff Mulgan
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
16 May 2005
Life Peerage
Personal details
Andreas Adonis

(1963-02-22) 22 February 1963 (age 56)
Hampstead, London, England[1]
NationalityUnited Kingdom British
Political partyLabour (1995–2015, 2017–present)
Other political
Social Democratic (1985–1987)
Liberal Democrats (1987–1995)
Kathryn Davies
(m. 1994; div. 2015)
Alma materKeble College, Oxford (BA)
Christ Church, Oxford (DPhil)
WebsiteOfficial website

Andrew Adonis, Baron Adonis PC (born Andreas Adonis; 22 February 1963)[2] is a British Labour Party politician, academic and journalist who served in the UK government for five years as part of the Blair ministry and the Brown ministry. He was Secretary of State for Transport from 2009 to 2010, and Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission from 2015 to 2017.

Adonis began his career as an academic at Oxford University, before becoming a journalist at the Financial Times and later The Observer.[2][3][4] Adonis was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair to be an advisor at the Number 10 Policy Unit, specialising in constitutional and educational policy, in 1998. He was later promoted to become the Head of the Policy Unit from 2001 until being made a life peer in 2005, when he was appointed to the Government soon after as Minister of State for Education.[2][3] He remained in that role when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007, before becoming Minister of State for Transport in 2008. In 2009, he was promoted to the Cabinet as Transport Secretary, a position he held until 2010.[5]

Adonis has worked for a number of think tanks, is a board member of Policy Network and is the author or co-author of several books, including several studies of the British class system, the rise and fall of the Community Charge, and the Victorian House of Lords. He has also co-edited a collection of essays on Roy Jenkins. He was educated at Keble College and Christ Church at the University of Oxford.

Following the 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union, he then became a key campaigner for a second referendum on British departure from the EU.

Family and education[edit]

Adonis's father, Nikos, emigrated from Cyprus as a teenager, becoming a waiter in London, where he met Adonis's English mother.[6] His mother left the family when he was three, and she has had no communication with him since.[6] Shortly thereafter Adonis and his sister were placed in care, because their father was working long hours and was not able to cope with sole parental responsibilities. Adonis lived in a council children's home until the age of 11, when he was awarded a local education authority grant to attend Kingham Hill School, a boarding school in Oxfordshire.[7]

Adonis gained admittance to Keble College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first-class Bachelor of Arts degree in Modern History in 1984.[8] He continued his education at Oxford and subsequently gained a doctorate with a thesis entitled, "The political role of the British peerage in the Third Reform Act system, c. 1885-1914" at Christ Church, before being appointed to a Fellowship in History and Politics at Nuffield College.[2][7]

From 1991 to 1996, he was an education and industry correspondent at the Financial Times, eventually becoming their public policy editor.[2] In 1996, he moved to The Observer to work as a political columnist, leader writer and editor.[2]

Early political career[edit]

From 1987 until 1991, Adonis was an Oxford City Councillor for the Social Democratic Party and later the Liberal Democrats, representing the North Ward.[2] In 1994, he was selected by the Liberal Democrats as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the Westbury constituency, but he resigned after 18 months. In the following year he joined the Labour Party.[9]

During the mid-to-late 1990s he was politically active for Labour in Islington North, the constituency represented by Jeremy Corbyn, and was selected as Labour candidate to contest St George's Ward for Islington London Borough Council in 1998. He withdrew from the process before the election, however, upon being offered a position in the Number 10 Policy Unit as a constitutional and educational policy advisor in 1997. He remained in this role until 2001, when he was promoted to become Head of the Policy Unit.

On 16 May 2005, he was created a life peer as Baron Adonis, of Camden Town in the London Borough of Camden,[10] this elevation to membership of the House of Lords making possible his appointment as a minister.[11]

In government[edit]

Adonis at Council House, Bristol in 2011

Adonis became the Minister of State for Education in the Department for Education and Skills, which was later renamed the Department for Children, Schools and Families. He was closely involved in the London Challenge.[12]

Having been the architect of the academies policy in the Policy Unit, Adonis was also able to be the driving force in Government behind the programme, which replaced failing and under-performing comprehensive schools with all-ability, independently managed academies, run on a not-for profit basis. By the time he left the Department in October 2008, 133 academies were open and 300 more were in the pipeline. These early academies were very successful.[citation needed] Government policy later sought to force academisation of all schools, moving them from outside Local Authority control. This policy has now ceased. Within this later wave of academies, evidence on performance compared to local authority schools is mixed, but on the whole suggests there is no substantial difference in performance.[13]

Adonis also encouraged state schools to adopt practices of the private sector and generally believed in giving individual schools more independence and autonomy from central government and the local education authorities. Although he voted against schools having more independent authority in the houses of parliament in 2006. His criticism of under-performing comprehensives made him unpopular with some trade union members and some on the Labour Party's left-wing. In 2006 Adonis supported the conversion of some independent schools under financial duress into state academies, portrayed at the time as a new style of direct grant grammar schools although not selective.[14] Adonis was also popular with some opposition politicians, in particular the then Conservative education spokesman Michael Gove, who once declared, "We are on the same page as Andrew Adonis."[15]

As Tony Blair's head of policy, Adonis was regarded as the architect of Tuition fees in the United Kingdom in 2004 – a policy he criticised and disowned 13 years later.[16]

Having initially kept his position when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Adonis was reshuffled to the Department for Transport on 3 October 2008, to become Minister of State. In May 2009, while reviewing potential cycle "super highways" with Kulveer Ranger and London Mayor Boris Johnson, the group had a "near-death" experience when a passing lorry's back door "suddenly flew open, dragged a parked car into the street and smashed into another – just feet from the group".[17] On 5 June 2009, Adonis was promoted to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Transport and was sworn a member of the Privy Council. In this role, he pioneered the plan for High Speed 2, the proposed high-speed railway line from London to Birmingham and the north of England. The plan was published shortly before the 2010 election, and has since been adopted and taken forward, largely unchanged, by subsequent governments. In July 2015, Adonis was appointed a non-executive director to HS2 Board Ltd.[18]

Adonis also planned and announced the electrification of the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea, and the electrification of lines in North West England from Manchester to Liverpool and Manchester to Preston. This electrification programme, except for the Cardiff to Swansea section of the Great Western, was taken forward by the coalition government.

Adonis was a key figure in the aftermath of the 2010 general election, which produced a hung parliament. He was reputed to favour a Lib-Lab deal and, given his SDP background, was a member of Labour's negotiation team that attempted to form a government with the Liberal Democrats. After the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party, Adonis stepped down from frontline politics.[19]

Adonis later returned to active politics in 2012, as part of Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. He worked with Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna on crafting Labour's industrial strategy, and has also taken up roles as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure in the House of Lords, and overseeing the Armitt Review looking at future infrastructure plans for the Labour Party.

Subsequent career[edit]

In July 2010, Adonis became the director of the Institute for Government, an independent charity with cross-party support and Whitehall governance working to improve government effectiveness.[20] Adonis left the Institute for Government in January 2012, to become Chair of Progress, an internal Labour Party organisation.[21][22] Having already been appointed President of the Independent Academies Association, in 2012 Adonis was also appointed a Liveryman Honoris Causa of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the major charitable promoters of academies.[23]

He is also a Trustee of Teach First, the charity which recruits graduates to teach in state schools, a Trustee of the vocational education charity Edge, and a Governor of the Baker-Dearing Trust, which supports the establishment of University Technical Colleges, technical schools for 14- to 18-year-olds.[24][25] He has been a Director of RM Plc since October 2011. His book on education reform – Education, Education, Education – was published by Biteback in September 2012.[26] In November 2014, he was appointed visiting professor at King's College London.[27]

Adonis considered standing[28] to be Labour's candidate for Mayor of London in 2016, but ended his putative campaign in February 2015, endorsing Tessa Jowell.[29]

In October 2015, he resigned the Labour Party whip in the House of Lords to sit as a non-affiliated Peer and lead a newly created National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). However, he resigned from the NIC in December 2017 because of the Government's approach to Brexit, saying the UK was "hurtling towards the EU's emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European co-operation".[30] Adonis said he planned to oppose "relentlessly" the government's European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords. In his resignation letter, he wrote that, as well as Brexit, the recent decision to end the InterCity East Coast rail franchise three years early, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds, would also have forced him to quit. He also claimed that "taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children's generation".[31]

Responding to Adonis' description of Brexit as a "populist and nationalist spasm", Iain Duncan Smith said the departure of Lord Adonis was "long overdue"; he added: "It's a bit rich for him to pontificate on what he calls populism, but what most would refer to as democracy, when he himself has never been elected by a public vote. [sic] He has instead relied on preferment from others."[30] On 15 April 2018 Adonis attended the launch event of the People's Vote, a campaign group calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.[32]

In the 2019 European Parliament election, Adonis was second on the Labour list for South West England[33] but was not elected. The Brexit Party topped the poll with 37% of the vote and 3 Brexit candidates, including Ann Widdecombe, accounted for 3 of the 6 elected MEPs. Labour’s share of the vote was 6.5% (a fall of 7.3% relative to the 2014 result) and the party lost its only MEP in the region.

Adonis was a participant at the 30 May - 2 June 2019 Bilderberg Group meeting in Montreux, Switzerland.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Adonis was formerly married to Kathryn Davies,[2] who was once a student of his;[6] the couple had two children.[7] Adonis and Davies divorced in 2015. In a profile[35] in the Evening Standard in 2019, the journalist Julian Glover reported that Adonis was gay.[36]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1963–1987: Mr Andrew Adonis
  • 1987–2005: Dr Andrew Adonis
  • 2005–2009: The Right Honourable The Lord Adonis
  • 2009–present: The Right Honourable The Lord Adonis PC

Selected publications[edit]


  • Andrew Adonis (Editor), Keith Thomas (Editor) (2004). Roy Jenkins: A Retrospective.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Andrew Adonis, Stephen Pollard (1997). A Class Act: Myth of Britain's Classless Society.
  • David Butler, Andrew Adonis & Tony Travers (1994). Failure in British government : the politics of the poll tax.
  • Andrew Adonis (1993). Making Aristocracy Work: The Peerage and the Political System in Britain,.
  • Andrew Adonis (Editor), Andrew Tyrie (Editor) (1989). Subsidiarity: no panacea.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Andrew Adonis (Editor), Tim Hames (Editor) (1994). The Thatcher-Reagan Decade in Perspective.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Andrew Adonis (2012). Education Education Education: Reforming England's Schools.
  • Adonis, Andrew (2013). 5 Days in May: The Coalition and Beyond. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 978-1849545662.
  • Will Hutton, Andrew Adonis (2018). Saving Britain: How We Must Change To Prosper In Europe. Abacus: Little, Brown Book Group, London. ISBN 978-1408711224.
  • Andrew Adonis (editor) (2018). Half In Half Out: Prime Ministers on Europe. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 978-1785904349.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)


  • Ben Pimlott The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II – book review, 1996, Andrew Adonis
  • Our progressives only look dead (prospects for a revival of progressivism in the United Kingdom), 1996, Andrew Adonis
  • Christopher Booker and Richard North The Castle of Lies: Why Britain Must Get Out of Europe – book review, 1996, Andrew Adonis
  • Anthony Barnett This Time: Our Constitutional Revolution – book review, 1996, Andrew Adonis
  • Shirley Williams Climbing the Bookshelves: the Autobiography – book review, 2009, Andrew Adonis
  • Roy Hattersley David Lloyd George: the Great Outsider – book review, 2010, Andrew Adonis
  • David Laws 22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition – book review, 2010, Andrew Adonis
  • Chris Bowers Nick Clegg: the Biography – book review, 2011, Andrew Adonis


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Will Woodward (28 October 2005). "The Guardian profile: Andrew Adonis". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Department for Education and Skills Ministerial Team". Department for Education and Skills. Archived from the original on 1 April 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  4. ^ "Adviser Adonis made a minister". BBC News. 10 May 2005. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  5. ^ High Speed Rail – Command Paper. Department for Transport, 11 March 2010, ISBN 9780101782722
  6. ^ a b c Winnett, Robert (12 June 2005). "Mother: why I left minister as a toddler". The Times. London. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  7. ^ a b c Ben Hall (17 January 2007). "This is not a wacky utopia". Financial Times. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  8. ^ The Record, page 21. Keble College, 1984
  9. ^ "Profile: Andrew Adonis". BBC News. 9 May 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  10. ^ "No. 57644". The London Gazette. 19 May 2005. p. 6547.
  11. ^ "Adonis will now be accountable". The Independent. London. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 3 April 2007.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Implementing the London Challenge" (PDF). Institute for Government. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  13. ^ Academies and maintained schools: what do we know?
  14. ^ Garner, Richard (19 October 2006). "Ministers in secret talks to bring back direct grant schools". The Independent. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Academy fears on Adonis reshuffle". BBC News. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  16. ^ "I put up tuition fees. It's now clear they have to be scrapped". Guardian News. 7 July 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  17. ^ Helm, Toby (23 May 2009). "Boris Johnson's 'near-death experience' with lorry caught on camera". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  18. ^ Lord Adonis joins board of HS2 project The Guardian, 16 July 2015
  19. ^ Watts, Robert (16 May 2010). "Adonis devised original coalition plan". The Times. London.
  20. ^ "Andrew Adonis announced as new Director of the Institute for Government.'". 15 July 2010. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011.
  21. ^ Institute For Government Appoints Rt Hon Peter Riddell As Director. 17 November 2011
  22. ^ Andrew Adonis becomes new Progress chair | Progress | News and debate from the progressive community. (11 January 2012). Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  23. ^ (5 July 2013). Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  24. ^ Our people Archived 1 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  25. ^ Our People.
  26. ^ Education, Education, Education Reforming.
  27. ^ King's College London. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  28. ^ Wigmore, Tim (30 April 2015). "Andrew Adonis: "The tale of two cities is the reality of London"". New Statesman. London. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  29. ^ Murphy, Joe (19 February 2015). "I won't run for mayor – Dame Tessa Jowell is the best candidate, says Lord Adonis". London Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  30. ^ a b "Adonis quits role with Brexit attack". BBC. 29 December 2017.
  31. ^ "Lord Adonis quits government role in stinging letter". BBC News. 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  32. ^ Staff writer (15 April 2018). "Brexit: 'People's Vote' campaign group launched". BBC News. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  33. ^ Foster, Matt (19 April 2019). "Anti-Brexit peer Lord Adonis among candidates as Labour unveils MEP hopefuls". Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  34. ^ "Participants". Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  35. ^ Glover, Julian (8 May 2019). "Andrew Adonis: We must spell it out now, Labour is a Remain party". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  36. ^ "Andrew Adonis: We must spell it out now, Labour is a Remain party". Evening Standard. 8 May 2019.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Stephen Timms
Minister of State for Education
Succeeded by
Jim Knight
Preceded by
Rosie Winterton
Minister of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Sadiq Khan
Preceded by
Geoff Hoon
Secretary of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Philip Hammond