Bob Stewart (British Army officer)

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Bob Stewart

Official portrait of Bob Stewart crop 2.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Beckenham
Assumed office
7 May 2010
Preceded byJacqui Lait
Majority15,087 (29.0%)
Personal details
Born (1949-07-07) 7 July 1949 (age 69)[1]
Political partyConservative
AwardsDistinguished Service Order
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Flag of the United Nations.svg United Nations Protection Force
Years of service1969–1996
Commands1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Battles/warsThe Troubles (Operation Banner)
Bosnian War (Operation Grapple)

Colonel Robert Alexander Stewart, DSO (born 7 July 1949) is a former British Army officer, former United Nations commander in Bosnia,[2] commentator, author, public speaker,[3] and Conservative Party politician. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the safe seat of Beckenham in South-East London since the 2010 general election.

Early life[edit]

Stewart was born on the 7 July 1949 to a father serving in the military. He was privately educated at Chigwell School, followed by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst near Camberley in Surrey. He spent part of his childhood in Cyprus.[4]

Stewart was selected for officer training at the age of seventeen, and after two years of training at RMA Sandhurst was commissioned into the Cheshire Regiment as a second lieutenant on 25 July 1969.[5] He was promoted to lieutenant on 25 January 1971.[6] In 1974 he undertook an in-service Bachelor's degree in International Politics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, graduating with first class honours.[7][8] He was promoted captain on 25 July 1975.[9] He guarded Rudolf Hess in Spandau Prison, Berlin.[4]

Military career[edit]

Career in Northern Ireland[edit]

From 1977 served in Northern Ireland both as intelligence officer and, after attending Staff College, Camberley and promotion to major on 30 September 1981, company commander of A Company 1 CHESHIRE, with an intermediate period spent at RMA Sandhurst as an instructor.[7][10] During his time in Northern Ireland he was the Incident Commander at the Droppin Well bombing in Ballykelly which killed seventeen people.[11] Stewart heard the explosion and arrived at the scene two or three minutes later. Six of the dead soldiers were from his company, including his clerk and storeman.[12] He received a personal commendation from the General commanding in Northern Ireland for his actions on the day.[7]

In 2017 he spoke of authorising now forbidden deep-Interrogation techniques during his time in Northern Ireland.[13]


He served in the Ministry of Defence, and was second in command of an infantry battalion. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 31 December 1987,[14] and served as a military attaché to the NATO military committee in Brussels.[15] In March 1991 he assumed command of 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment,[16] and as commanding officer returned to Northern Ireland for a further two operational tours and then became the first British Commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia from September 1992 to May 1993. It was as commanding officer in Bosnia, as part of Operation Grapple, that he earned the nickname "Bosnia Bob" and became something of a media personality.[17] During his time in Bosnia he discovered the Ahmići massacre in which 103 people were killed.[18] He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 12 June 1993 on his return to the United Kingdom.[19] He was promoted colonel on 31 December 1993,[20] and went on to take up the position of Chief of Policy at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe,[7] before officially retiring from the army on 1 February 1996.[21]

Career after the army[edit]

In 1997 Stewart took three weeks' leave from the public relations company Hill & Knowlton to help his friend Martin Bell who was standing for Parliament in Tatton as an Independent candidate. Stewart was alongside Bell when they were confronted by the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency, Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine on Knutsford Heath.[22] Bell, who was opposing Hamilton as a result of accusations that Hamilton had accepted money for promoting causes in Parliament, gave Stewart the credit for defining his criticism of Hamilton as having already admitted to "conduct unbecoming".[23]

Since leaving the army Stewart has become a well-known commentator upon military and political affairs, frequently commenting upon the defence policy of the British Government and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[24] In 2009 he condemned the system compensating injured soldiers, accusing the MOD of acting with "the speed of a striking sloth".[2][25][26] He also accused the government of repeatedly refusing the requests of army commanders for more troops and more helicopters in Afghanistan.[27]

Political career[edit]

On 28 July 2009, it was revealed that he had been approved to put himself forward for selection to constituency associations as a PPC for the Conservative Party. As the former commander of the Cheshire Regiment he was linked to the safe Conservative East Cheshire seats of Macclesfield[28] and Congleton,[29] however the final shortlists for Macclesfield and for Congleton from Conservative Central Office did not contain his name. In summer 2009 he was shortlisted for Beckenham, one of the safest Conservative seats in the country,[30] and on 6 December it was announced that he had been selected as Conservative candidate there, winning an overall majority on the second ballot.[31]

At the 2010 general election on 6 May, Stewart was elected as the new MP for Beckenham.[32][33]

Stewart served on the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and in May 2014 he was one of seven unsuccessful candidates for the chairmanship of the committee.[34]

Stewart has been vocal in criticising cuts to the defence budget, suggesting in March 2015, that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff were to resign over the issue it would "make a very powerful message". When asked if he would resign as an MP himself, he said that he was considering it.[35]

At the 2015 general election, he retained his seat.[36] Stewart's seat is a target seat for the Liberal Democrats (fourth placed in 2015) following his support of Brexit.[37]

At the snap 2017 general election, he retained his seat with an increased vote share of two percent.[38]

In the House of Commons he sits on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and has previously sat on the Committees on Arms Export Controls and Defence Sub-Committee.[39]


In 2016, Stewart was criticised after it was revealed he had described Isabel Hardman, The Spectator's assistant editor, as "totty". He was accused of being sexist and for making Parliament an uncomfortable place for women to work. He later apologised to the journalist, but went on to publicly defend himself against an environment that he described as overly 'politically correct'.[40][41]

In 2017, Stewart's name was included on a leaked internal list of Conservative Party MPs who has been alleged to have acted inappropriately[42]. He publicly denied accusations that he was regularly inebriated in Parliament and was inappropriate with female colleagues[43]. Unlike some of the other MPs featured on the leaked list, he was not suspended or subject to further documented disciplinary action.[44]

Stewart employs his wife as a Senior Parliamentary Assistant on a salary up to £30,000.[45] He was listed in an article in the Daily Telegraph criticising the practice of MPs employing family members, on the lines that it promotes nepotism.[46] Although MPs who were first elected in 2017 have been banned from employing family members, the restriction is not retrospective - meaning that Stewart's employment of his wife is lawful.[47]

Personal life[edit]

He lives in Beckenham in London. He has six children and is married to Claire Podbielski, who Stewart met whilst he was commanding British forces in Bosnia in 1993. He was married to Elizabeth Hoffman when he started the relationship with Ms Podbielski and later described the tabloid coverage of his affair as:"bloody awful for my family, friends and for me."[48] Podbielski is Polish-Swiss and now works as Stewart's Senior Parliamentary Assistant; she is a former Delegate of the Red Cross.[45][48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bob Stewart MP". BBC Democracy Live. BBC. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b Waller, Martin (20 July 2009). "Can Colonel Bob conquer books on business?". The Times. London. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  3. ^ "Bob Stewart". Now You're Talking. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Bob Stewart MP answers ConHome's Twenty Questions for the Class of 2010". 18 January 2013. Archived from the original on 18 January 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  5. ^ "No. 44923". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 August 1969. pp. 8768–8769.
  6. ^ "No. 45287". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1971. p. 914.
  7. ^ a b c d "Bob Stewart". CMM. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Aberystwyth at Westminster". Aberystwyth University. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  9. ^ "No. 46644". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 July 1975. p. 9643.
  10. ^ "No. 48770". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 October 1981. pp. 13261–13263.
  11. ^ "Decorated Colonel speaks at RGU". Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  12. ^ "HC Deb c216". Hansard. 26 May 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  13. ^ "Conservative MP Bob Stewart 'was kind of torturer' during Troubles". BBC News. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  14. ^ "No. 51194". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 January 1988. pp. 303–304.
  15. ^ "Desert Rats ready after rehearsal in bandit country". The Times. London. 16 September 1992.
  16. ^ Badsey & Latawski 2004, p. 35.
  17. ^ Finlan 2004, p. 56.
  18. ^ "Ahmici sentences 'are just a start'". BBC News. 14 January 2000. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  19. ^ "No. 53333". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 1993. p. 30.
  20. ^ "No. 53537". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1993. p. 20680.
  21. ^ "No. 54308". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 February 1996. p. 1801.
  22. ^ Jenkins, Russell; Midgley, Carol (9 April 1997). "Bell's first dispatch from the front line". The Times. London. p. 1.
  23. ^ "Martin Bell's campaign diary". The Guardian. Manchester. 6 May 1997.
  24. ^ Brady, Brian; Owen, Jonathan (26 July 2009). "Revealed: £12bn hidden costs of Afghan war". The Independent. London. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  25. ^ Kirkup, James; Simpson, Aislinn; Britten, Nick (29 July 2009). "2,500 wounded British soldiers waiting for compensation, figures show". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  26. ^ Howie, Michael (31 July 2009). "Disclose full horror of our boys' injuries". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  27. ^ "Helicopters 'do not end war risk'". BBC News. 12 July 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  28. ^ "Winterton's possible successor – six hopefuls revealed". Macclesfield Express. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  29. ^ Morgan, David (21 November 2009). "Middlewich candidates aim to start a new era for Tories". Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  30. ^ "Col Bob Stewart accepted as Conservative candidate". The Daily Telegraph. London. 28 July 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  31. ^ "Bob Stewart selected for Beckenham". ConservativeHome. 6 December 2009.
  32. ^ "Beckenham Conservative: Bob Stewart". The Guardian. London. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  33. ^ "Bob Stewart MP, Beckenham - TheyWorkForYou". TheyWorkForYou.
  34. ^ "Defence Committee Chair election: Rory Stewart MP elected" (PDF). 14 May 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  35. ^ Morris, Nigel (4 March 2015). "Col Bob Stewart: Defence chiefs 'should resign over Army cuts'". Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  36. ^ Miles, Tim. "General Election Result 2015: Beckenham". bromley times. Archant Community Media. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  37. ^ "Lib Dems Gunning for Beckenham". Bromley Times. 10 January 2017.
  38. ^ "Beckenham parliamentary constituency - Election 2017". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-06-11.
  39. ^ "Bob Stewart". Parliament UK. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  40. ^ "MP At Centre Of 'Sexism' Row Finally Responds To Media Reports About Him". HuffPost UK. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  41. ^ "MP apologises for calling female political journalist 'totty'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  42. ^ "Tory MP named in Westminster sex pest list is too afraid to ask women out". The Sun. 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  43. ^ "'I'm not sleazy or drunk' - Colonel Bob Stewart refutes Westminster sex harassment claims". Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  44. ^ "'I'm not sleazy or drunk' - Colonel Bob Stewart refutes Westminster sex harassment claims". Talk Radio. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  45. ^ a b "IPSA". GOV.UK. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  46. ^ "One in five MPs employs a family member: the full list revealed". \Daily Telegraph. 2015-06-29. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  47. ^ "MPs banned from employing spouses after election in expenses crackdown". London Evening Standard. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  48. ^ a b "Carry on Major". \The Scotsman. 2004-05-28. Retrieved 27 August 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jacqui Lait
Member of Parliament for Beckenham