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Bob Stewart (politician)

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Bob Stewart
Official portrait, 2020
Member of Parliament
for Beckenham
In office
6 May 2010[1] – 30 May 2024
Preceded byJacqui Lait
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Robert Alexander Stewart[2]

(1949-07-07) 7 July 1949 (age 74)[3]
Political partyConservative
SpouseClaire Podbielski
Residence(s)Beckenham, London, England
Alma materRoyal Military Academy Sandhurst
WebsiteOfficial website
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1967–1996
Commands1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
AwardsDistinguished Service Order
Service number487588

Colonel Robert Alexander Stewart DSO (born 7 July 1949) is a British politician and former soldier. He was the member of Parliament (MP) for Beckenham from 2010 to 2024.[4] A member of the Conservative Party, he also is a former British Army officer and United Nations commander in Bosnia,[5] commentator, author and public speaker.[6]

In November 2023, the CPS secured a conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence against Stewart and he was fined.[7] However, in February 2024, the conviction was overturned by Southwark Crown Court.[8][9]

Early life[edit]

Stewart was born on 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.[10]

Military career[edit]

Stewart was accepted for officer training at the age of seventeen, and after two years of training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, was commissioned into the Cheshire Regiment as a second lieutenant on 25 July 1969. His service number was 487588.[11] He was promoted to lieutenant on 25 January 1971.[12] 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.[13][14] He was promoted captain on 25 July 1975.[15]

Career in Northern Ireland[edit]

From 1977 Stewart 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 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment, with an intermediate period spent at Sandhurst as an instructor.[13][16] During his time in Northern Ireland he was the Incident Commander at the Droppin Well bombing in Ballykelly which killed seventeen people.[17] 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.[18] He received a personal commendation from the general commanding in Northern Ireland for his actions on the day.[13]

In 2017 Stewart spoke of using[19] and authorising now forbidden deep-interrogation techniques during his time in Northern Ireland.[20]


Stewart served in the Ministry of Defence, and was second-in-command of an infantry battalion. He was promoted lieutenant colonel on 31 December 1987,[21] and served as a military attaché to the NATO military committee in Brussels.[22] In March 1991 he assumed command of the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment,[23] 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.[24]

During his time in Bosnia he discovered the Ahmići massacre in which 103 people had been killed.[25] He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 12 June 1993 on his return to the United Kingdom.[26] He was promoted colonel on 31 December 1993,[27] and went on to take up the position of Chief of Policy at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe,[13] before officially retiring from the army on 1 February 1996.[28]

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.[29] 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".[30]

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.[31] In 2009 he condemned the system compensating injured soldiers, accusing the MOD of acting with "the speed of a striking sloth".[5][32][33] He also accused the government of repeatedly refusing the requests of army commanders for more troops and more helicopters in Afghanistan.[34]

Political career[edit]

On 28 July 2009, it was revealed that Stewart 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 and Congleton,[35][36] 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,[37] and on 6 December it was announced that he had been selected as Conservative candidate there, winning an overall majority on the second ballot.[38]

At the 2010 general election, Stewart was elected as the new MP for Beckenham.[39][40] He won 57.9% of the vote, a decrease of 1.8%, and won a majority of 17,784,[41] an increase from 8,401 at the 2005 general election.[42]

In 2013, Stewart voted against same-sex marriage and called on the then Prime Minister David Cameron to drop the proposal.[43] Five years later in May 2018 he apologised unreservedly in the House of Commons chamber for voting against same-sex marriage, after he had seen "the joy" it had brought to the lives of same-sex couples. In 2019, he voted to extend same-sex marriage to couples in Northern Ireland.[44]

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.[45]

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.[46]

Stewart was re-elected at the 2015 general election with an increased majority of 18,471 and a decreased vote share of 57.3%.[47][48]

In 2016, Stewart was criticised after it was revealed he had described Isabel Hardman, The Spectator's assistant editor, as "totty". He later apologised to the journalist, but went on to publicly defend himself against an environment that he described as overly 'politically correct'.[49][50] In November 2017, Stewart countered sexual harassment allegations saying "I'm not sleazy or drunk".[51]

Stewart's seat was a target seat for the Liberal Democrats at both the 2017 and 2019 general election, following his open support of Brexit.[52] At the snap 2017 general election, Stewart held his seat with an increased vote share of 2%, but with a decreased majority of 15,087.[53][54] At the 2019 general election, Stewart was re-elected with a decreased vote share of 54.0% and a decreased majority of 14,258.[55]

In the House of Commons Stewart sits on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee[56] and has previously sat on the Committees on Arms Export Controls and Defence Sub-Committee.[57]

Stewart employs his wife as a part-time, Senior Parliamentary Assistant.[58][59][60] 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 allowed.[61]

During a 2018 interview with Russia Today that followed the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Stewart suggested that teachers in American high schools may have to be armed.[62]

In March 2020, Stewart was accused of fuelling xenophobia after he described COVID-19 as a "foul Chinese illness" in a Facebook post. Stewart said: "My grandfather died of Spanish flu in 1919 and I used the word Chinese Flu in respect of where the virus originated. As a constituent emailed me and thought I was being rude about the Chinese I deleted the word 'Chinese' because that was not my intention."[63]

He is a Sino-sceptic who co-chairs the British-Taiwanese all-party parliamentary group along with Lord Rogan.[64]

In July 2021, Stewart was one of five Conservative MPs found by the Commons Select Committee on Standards to have breached the code of conduct by writing to the Lord Chief Justice to try to influence a judge not to release character statements made by ordinary members of the public – former constituents of the former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke, who had previously been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault and sentenced to two years in prison.[65] Stewart reportedly wrote to the judge saying Elphicke's sentence should take into account his hard work as an MP, and described his crimes as "folly".[66] On 22 July 2021, Stewart made a personal statement in the House of Commons apologising.

In November 2023, Stewart announced that he would not be seeking re-election at the next general election.[67]

Public order prosecution and appeal[edit]

In December 2022, Stewart was captured on video in an exchange with Bahraini human rights activist Sayed Alwadaei, who was stripped of his nationality by the government there,[68] outside a reception hosted by the Bahraini embassy in London. Alwadaei challenged Stewart, asking him, "Did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?" In response, Stewart said that Bahrain was "a great place", adding "Go back to Bahrain" and "You're taking money off my country, go away." Stewart later apologised for his remarks, but said he was "taunted" and had not taken money from Bahrain. Alwadaei submitted a letter of complaint to the Conservative Party, alleging that Stewart had brought the party into disrepute and victimised him because of his race or nationality.[69]

Following a police investigation, [70] the Crown Prosecution Service authorised the Metropolitan Police to charge Stewart with two offences under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, including racially aggravated abuse "and in the alternative, a non-aggravated section 5 offence under the same Act."[71] Stewart pleaded not guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 19 July.[72]

On 3 November 2023, Stewart was found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence, fined £600, and ordered to pay costs.[73] He surrendered the Conservative Party whip in the Commons pending an appeal against his conviction.[74]

On 23 February 2024, Stewart successfully appealed his conviction and had the offence overturned at Southwark Crown Court. Mr Justice Bennathan found that while Stewart's comments did amount to abuse, the complainant had not suffered upset, alarm or distress and by his own admission had not heard all of Stewart's comments during their heated exchange.[9][75]

Personal life[edit]

Stewart lives in Beckenham in London and in 1994 he married his second wife, Clare Podbielski, a Red Cross worker he met while serving in the military. He has six children. He was married to his first wife for 20 years.[76][77]


Ribbon Description[78] Notes
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
General Service Medal
United Nations Medal
Accumulated Campaign Service Medal
  • 36 Months Campaign Service

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bob Stewart". members.parliament.uk.
  2. ^ "No. 61961". The London Gazette. 19 June 2017. p. 11776.
  3. ^ "Bob Stewart MP". BBC Democracy Live. BBC. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Bob Stewarts expenses - Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority". Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  5. ^ a b Waller, Martin (20 July 2009). "Can Colonel Bob conquer books on business?". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  6. ^ "Bob Stewart". Now You're Talking. Retrieved 8 August 2009.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Conservative MP Bob Stewart guilty of racially aggravated public order offence". BBC News. 3 November 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  8. ^ "R v Robert Stewart MP" (PDF). Southwark Crown Court. 23 February 2024. Retrieved 24 March 2024.
  9. ^ a b Reporters, Telegraph (23 February 2024). "Former Tory MP Bob Stewart has racial abuse conviction quashed". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "No. 44923". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 August 1969. pp. 8768–8769.
  12. ^ "No. 45287". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1971. p. 914.
  13. ^ a b c d "Bob Stewart". CMM. Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  14. ^ "Aberystwyth at Westminster". Aberystwyth University. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  15. ^ "No. 46644". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 July 1975. p. 9643.
  16. ^ "No. 48770". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 October 1981. pp. 13261–13263.
  17. ^ "Decorated Colonel speaks at RGU". Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  18. ^ "HC Deb c216". Hansard. 26 May 2010. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  19. ^ "MP was 'kind of torturer' in Troubles". 27 January 2017. Archived from the original on 3 December 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Conservative MP Bob Stewart 'was kind of torturer' during Troubles". BBC News. 27 January 2017. Archived from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  21. ^ "No. 51194". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 January 1988. pp. 303–304.
  22. ^ "Desert Rats ready after rehearsal in bandit country". The Times. London. 16 September 1992.
  23. ^ Badsey & Latawski 2004, p. 35.
  24. ^ Finlan 2004, p. 56.
  25. ^ "Ahmici sentences 'are just a start'". BBC News. 14 January 2000. Archived from the original on 5 April 2003. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  26. ^ a b "No. 53333". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 1993. p. 30.
  27. ^ "No. 53537". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1993. p. 20680.
  28. ^ "No. 54308". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 February 1996. p. 1801.
  29. ^ Jenkins, Russell; Midgley, Carol (9 April 1997). "Bell's first dispatch from the front line". The Times. London. p. 1.
  30. ^ "Martin Bell's campaign diary". The Guardian. Manchester. 6 May 1997.
  31. ^ Brady, Brian; Owen, Jonathan (26 July 2009). "Revealed: £12bn hidden costs of Afghan war". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 30 July 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  32. ^ Kirkup, James; Simpson, Aislinn; Britten, Nick (29 July 2009). "2,500 wounded British soldiers waiting for compensation, figures show". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 1 August 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  33. ^ Howie, Michael (31 July 2009). "Disclose full horror of our boys' injuries". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
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  35. ^ "Winterton's possible successor – six hopefuls revealed". Macclesfield Express. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  36. ^ Morgan, David (21 November 2009). "Middlewich candidates aim to start a new era for Tories". Middlewich Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
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  46. ^ Morris, Nigel (4 March 2015). "Col Bob Stewart: Defence chiefs 'should resign over Army cuts'". The Independent. Archived from the original on 13 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
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  48. ^ Bromley, London Borough of. "London Borough of Bromley download - General Election May 2015 results Council and democracy - Elections and voting - Elections". www.bromley.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  49. ^ "Tory MP Bob Stewart breaks his silence on 'totty' row". TotalPolitics.com. 14 April 2016.
  50. ^ "MP apologises for calling female political journalist 'totty'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  51. ^ "'I'm not sleazy or drunk' - Colonel Bob Stewart refutes Westminster sex harassment claims | talkRADIO". 3 December 2020. Archived from the original on 3 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  52. ^ "Lib Dems Gunning for Beckenham". Bromley Times. 10 January 2017. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  53. ^ "Beckenham parliamentary constituency". BBC News. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  54. ^ "Commons Briefing Paper 7979. General Election 2017: results and analysis" (PDF) (Second ed.). House of Commons Library. 29 January 2019 [7 April 2018]. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 November 2019.
  55. ^ "Beckenham parliamentary constituency – Election 2017". BBC News. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  56. ^ "Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Committee membership at the end of Parliament 2017-19 - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 12 November 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  57. ^ "Bob Stewart". Parliament UK. Archived from the original on 28 August 2018. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  58. ^ "IPSA". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 28 August 2018. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  59. ^ "One in five MPs employs a family member: the full list revealed". The Telegraph. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  60. ^ "Bob Stewart MP".
  61. ^ Cecil, Nicholas (21 April 2017). "MPs banned from employing spouses after election in expenses crackdown". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  62. ^ "WATCH Tory MP Bob Stewart says arming US teachers 'should be considered'". PoliticsHome.com. 2 March 2018. Archived from the original on 12 November 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  63. ^ Wearmouth, Rachel (31 March 2020). "Tory MP Bob Stewart Calls Coronavirus 'Foul Chinese Illness' In Facebook Post". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  64. ^ The Formosa Club [@_theformosaclub] (26 August 2021). "Our Co-Chairs & members from @Europarl_EN & 27 nat'l parliaments call on @eucopresident, @vonderleyen, @EP_President & @jensstoltenberg to show solidarity with Lithuania and support its decision to expand ties with Taiwan! Democracies should look after each other!" (Tweet). Retrieved 26 August 2021 – via Twitter.
  65. ^ Binding, Lucia (21 July 2021). "Five Tory MPs breached code of conduct by trying to influence judge in Charlie Elphicke sex assault trial, committee rules". Sky News. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  66. ^ O'Byrne Mulligan, Euan (11 May 2021). "Beckenham MP investigated over letter written in support of disgraced ex-colleague". News Shopper. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  67. ^ "Bob Stewart MP to stand down after racial abuse conviction". BBC News. 19 November 2023. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  68. ^ Alwadaei, Sayed Ahmed (19 April 2019). "Hundreds of Bahrainis like me are being made stateless – and the UK is complicit". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  69. ^ "Bob Stewart MP tells human rights activist to 'go back to Bahrain'". BBC News. 20 December 2022.
  70. ^ "Police investigate Conservative MP Bob Stewart's Bahrain comment". BBC News. 20 December 2022. Retrieved 20 December 2022.
  71. ^ "CPS authorises charges against MP for public order offence". www.cps.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  72. ^ "Tory Beckenham MP Bob Stewart pleads not guilty to racially abusing man". 19 July 2023.
  73. ^ "Conservative MP Bob Stewart guilty of racially abusing activist". BBC News. 3 November 2023. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  74. ^ "Tory MP Bob Stewart surrenders whip after racial abuse conviction". BBC News. 4 November 2023. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  75. ^ "Court quashes MP's conviction for racially aggravated offence". Northwich Guardian. 23 February 2024. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  76. ^ "Beckenham MP 'Bonking' Bob Stewart 'calls journalist totty'". News Shopper. 14 April 2016.
  77. ^ "Colonel marries aid worker". The Herald. 25 January 1994. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  78. ^ "Photograph of Colonel Bob Stewart Wearing His Medals". Alamy. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  79. ^ King, Ceri (10 March 2021). "ORDERS APPROVED AND BUSINESS TRANSACTED AT THE PRIVY COUNCIL HELD BY THE QUEEN AT WINDSOR CASTLE ON 10TH MARCH 2021" (PDF). The Privy Council Office. Retrieved 22 August 2022.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Beckenham
Constituency abolished