Dawn Butler

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Dawn Butler

Official portrait of Dawn Butler MP crop 2.jpg
Butler in 2020
Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities
In office
31 August 2017 – 6 April 2020
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded bySarah Champion
Succeeded byMarsha de Cordova
Shadow Minister of State for Diversity
In office
6 October 2016 – 1 February 2017
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byNaz Shah[a]
Minister of State for Youth Affairs
In office
30 October 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byNick Hurd
Member of Parliament
for Brent Central
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded bySarah Teather
Majority20,870 (42.5%)
Member of Parliament
for Brent South
In office
5 May 2005 – 12 April 2010
Preceded byPaul Boateng
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Dawn Petula Butler[1]

(1969-11-03) 3 November 1969 (age 50)
Newham, London, England[2]
Political partyLabour
WebsiteOfficial website
a. ^ Office vacant from February 2017 to July 2018. From February to August 2017, duties were shared between Sarah Champion, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and Kate Osamor, Shadow International Development Secretary.[3]

Dawn Petula Butler (born 3 November 1969) is a British Labour Party politician serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Brent Central since 2015. Butler served as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet from 2017 to 2020 and MP for Brent South from 2005 to 2010.

Butler served in the Brown ministry as Minister for Young Citizens and Youth Engagement from 2009 to 2010. In October 2016, she was appointed to the new role of Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities. In February 2017, she resigned from this role. From August 2017, Butler was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities; she left the position in April 2020.

Early life[edit]

Butler was born in Forest Gate in East London, to Jamaican immigrant parents Milo and Ambrozene Butler; she has one sister and four brothers.[4][5] She was educated at Tom Hood School in Leytonstone and Waltham Forest College, both in London.[4]

She worked as an officer of the GMB Union, including time as a national race and equality officer. Butler was also an adviser to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, on employment and social issues.[5]

Parliamentary career[edit]

First term (2005–2010)[edit]

Butler first sought selection to be the Labour candidate in Hackney South and Shoreditch, where she featured on an all-women shortlist but was unsuccessful.[citation needed] Butler put herself forward for selection for West Ham in 2005 but was not selected.[6][7] Following the retirement of Paul Boateng to become British High Commissioner to South Africa, she was selected as the Labour candidate in Brent South and retained the seat for her party at the 2005 general election with a majority of 11,326.[8] She was the third[citation needed] black woman to become a British MP after Diane Abbott and Oona King.

Interest in youth services continued as one of her main interests in Parliament. On 24 October 2006, she was appointed chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs, and she is an honorary vice president of the British Youth Council. After Gordon Brown became prime minister in June 2007, Butler was made one of the Labour Party's six vice chairs, with particular responsibility for youth issues.[9][10]

In 2006, Butler voted against investigations into the Iraq War.[11] She subsequently voted against investigations a further six times up until 2016.[12]

She was appointed to the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons shortly after her election, and served on standing committees. In November 2007 she was appointed to the Children & Families Select Committee. Earlier (in November 2005), she had been promoted to Parliamentary Private Secretary to the health minister Jane Kennedy, but decided to stand down from this post in early 2006.

She was promoted to Assistant Whip on 12 September 2008.[citation needed]

Butler was named female MP of the year at the 2009 Women in Public Life awards.[13][14] Following her appointment as Minister for Young Citizens and Youth Engagement, Butler became the first black woman to speak from the despatch box in the House of Commons in December 2009.[15]

Boundary changes[edit]

Butler's constituency of Brent South was abolished at the 2010 general election. Its territory was mostly divided between two constituencies: a new Brent Central seat and a re-drawn Brent North. Butler was selected as the Labour candidate in Brent Central but lost to Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat candidate, who had been the MP for Brent East which had also been abolished at the general election.

Second term (2015–present)[edit]

Butler was the Labour candidate for Brent Central at the general election in 2015. Prior to the election, Teather had announced she would stand down from parliament, so she did not contest the seat. Butler was returned to parliament with a majority of more than 19,000 votes.[16]

Butler is a former chair of the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party. Following a vote in September 2016, she was succeeded by Jess Phillips.[17][18]

2015 leadership election[edit]

Butler supported Andy Burnham in the 2015 Labour Leadership Election.[19][20][21] However, she 'lent' her nomination to Jeremy Corbyn to ensure he was on the ballot.[22]

After Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected leader in 2016, Butler was appointed as Labour's Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities in October 2016.[23]

Resignation from Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet[edit]

In February 2017, Butler resigned from Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet before the vote on the second reading in the House of Commons of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 which triggered Article 50.[24] The vote carried a three-line whip instructing Labour MPs to vote in favour.[25]

In March 2017, Butler used British Sign Language to ask a question in the House of Commons about giving this language legal recognition.[26] She was reappointed as shadow minister for diverse communities in June 2017. In the same month, she launched a new cross-party parliamentary group, the Parliamentary Black Caucus, concerned with ethnic minority issues.[27]

Return to the Shadow Cabinet[edit]

In August 2017, following the resignation of Sarah Champion, Butler became the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.[28]

In September 2018, she argued that the actions of the Militant-dominated Liverpool City Council in the early 1980s could be an inspiration for current Labour councils faced with public sector funding constraints.[29] In the same month, Butler was promoted to a Shadow Secretary of State title, as it was announced that Women and Equalities would be upgraded to a full government department under a Labour government.[30]

2020 deputy leadership election[edit]

Butler speaking at the deputy leadership hustings in Bristol

Butler was reelected in the 2019 general election.[31] Butler became the first candidate to declare candidacy in the 2020 Labour Party deputy leadership election.[32][33] She has been described as one of Corbyn's "closest allies" and often sits by his side in Parliament.[34] Butler ultimately received 50,255 (10.9%) of first preference ballots, the least of the five candidates, eliminating her from the contest and seeing her second preference votes redistributed to the remaining candidates, with Angela Rayner ultimately winning the contest.[35]

Return to the backbenches[edit]

Following the election of Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party, Butler was sacked from her role in the Shadow Cabinet and was succeeded by Marsha de Cordova.[36]

In July 2020, Butler was forced to close her her constituency office due to escalating racist threats towards her and her staff.[37]

Political controversies[edit]

Obama endorsement[edit]

In January 2009, Butler published on her website a letter which she described as an "absolutely genuine" endorsement from US President Barack Obama.[38] Butler later admitted that the endorsement had been written by her staff with the consent of Obama's aides, then signed and reviewed by Obama, proving that the endorsement was "genuine".[39]


In March 2009, Butler was criticised for claiming almost the full £23,000 annual second home allowance, despite her second home in Stratford being the same distance from Parliament as her Brent South home.[40][41]

She also claimed £2,650 for new central heating and £2,308 for a suite including a whirlpool bath.[42]

After several written exchanges with the Parliamentary Fees Office, she offset the earlier over-claims by submitting further expenses and writing a cheque for £625 to cover it. She was found by the subsequent official investigation to have acted in accordance with the rules as they stood. She described this process in the ‘Brent & Kilburn Times’ local newspaper as “…a total exoneration” of her conduct.[43]

Travel funding[edit]

In February 2018, Butler appointed businessman Anthony Watson as an LGBT+ advisor.[44]

In May 2018, Butler accepted a free week's holiday in the Hilton Giardini Naxos in Sicily funded by the Institute of Travel and Tourism.[45]

Comments on giraffe sexuality[edit]

In October 2019, one of Corbyn's advisors accused Butler of homophobia after she said that "90 per cent of giraffes are gay" at the PinkNews awards.[46][47]

Claims about reducing homelessness[edit]

In November 2019, Butler claimed during a radio interview that she had reduced the number of homeless people living in her constituency from 3,000 in 2007, which was two-thirds of the government's official figure for homelessness in the whole of Britain in 2018. The government's statistic for Brent in 2018 was 248.[48] She apologised for her mistake soon after on Twitter.[49]

Comments on biological sex[edit]

In February 2020, Butler was criticised following an interview with Richard Madeley on Good Morning Britain during which she stated that: "A child is born without sex".[50] She was taking part in a debate about reactions to updates to Gender Recognition Act 2004 which were proposed by the governing Conservative Party.[51] Butler later clarified that she was referencing gender neutrality, where people can identify as 'non-binary'.[52]


  1. ^ "No. 61961". The London Gazette. 19 June 2017. p. 11776.
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Exclusive: Two shadow ministers to take on 'diverse communities' responsibilities". Jewish News Online. 1 March 2017. Archived from the original on 3 April 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Butler, Dawn, (born 3 Nov. 1969), MP (Lab) Brent Central, since 2015 | WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO". www.ukwhoswho.com. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U45644. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Dawn Butler Biography". Dawn Butler (blog). Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  6. ^ "Two more candidates named as general election looms". Stratford and Newham Express. 30 March 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Hugh Muir (21 March 2005). "All-black Labour shortlist in Brent | Politics". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 29 August 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  8. ^ "MPs welcome Commons moment of history". ePolitix. 9 December 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  9. ^ "Dawn Butler appointed as youth minister". CYP Now. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  10. ^ "New Job for Dawn Butler MP". Dawn Butler (blog). Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  11. ^ "Voting record - Dawn Butler MP, Brent Central". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Voting record - Dawn Butler MP, Brent Central". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Shortlist – Women in Public Life Awards 2009". Women in public life awards. Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  14. ^ "Women in Public Life Awards Winners 2009". Women in public life awards. Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Dawn Butler's Labour credentials as she prepares to stand for deputy". inews.co.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  16. ^ "Brent Central". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015.
  17. ^ Savage, Michael; Fisher, Lucy (14 September 2016). "Corbyn ally ousted in victory for rebel MPs". The Times. Retrieved 14 September 2016. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Proctor, Kate (13 September 2016). "Labour women in fight for top job". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  19. ^ "HuffPost is now part of Verizon Media". consent.yahoo.com. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  20. ^ "Dawn Butler struggles with the new kinder politics". Coffee House. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  21. ^ McGrath, Hannah. "Brent MP Dawn Butler becomes an internet sensation after asking Sky News presenter Kay Burley". Kilburn Times. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  22. ^ "Dawn Butler struggles with the new kinder politics". Coffee House. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  23. ^ Bush, Stephen; Lewis, Helen; Rampen, Julia (7 October 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn reshuffles the shadow cabinet – live!". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  24. ^ "Two Labour Shadow Cabinet members quit ahead of Article 50 vote". The Independent. 1 February 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  25. ^ Cowburn, Ashley (1 February 2017). "Rachael Maskell and Dawn Butler resign from Labour's Shadow Cabinet ahead of Article 50 vote". The Independent. Archived from the original on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  26. ^ "MP Dawn Butler praised for using sign language in Commons". BBC News. 16 March 2017. Archived from the original on 30 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Dawn Butler MP launches a new cross-party group". The Voice. 22 June 2017. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  28. ^ Waugh, Paul (31 August 2017). "Butler Replaces Champion In Shadow Equalities Post". HuffPost UK. Archived from the original on 1 September 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  29. ^ "DDawn Butler sparks Militant controversy at Labour conference". The Guardian. 22 September 2018. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  30. ^ Smith, Beckie (24 September 2018). "Labour unveils plans for Women and Equalities Department". Civil Service World. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  31. ^ "Brent Central parliamentary constituency – Election 2019". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  32. ^ Raffray, Nathalie. "Dawn Butler MP to stand as deputy leader of the Labour Party". Kilburn Times. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  33. ^ PoliticsHome.com (7 November 2019). "Dawn Butler becomes first candidate to enter Labour deputy leadership race". PoliticsHome.com. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  34. ^ "Dawn Butler to David Lammy: the MPs in contention for top spots in the Labour party". Voice Online. 23 December 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  35. ^ "Leaderhip Elections 2020 Results". The Labour Party. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  36. ^ Langlois, André (7 April 2020). "'I'll work to make Labour more representative,' says Dawn Butler as she backs leadership". Kilburn Times. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  37. ^ Proctor, Kate (9 July 2020). "Labour MP Dawn Butler closes office after receiving racist threats". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  38. ^ "Obama gave two endorsements to MP". Kilburn Times. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  39. ^ Swaine, Jon (23 January 2009). "My staff wrote 'Barack Obama tribute', junior minister Dawn Butler admits". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  40. ^ Dominiczak, Peter; Moore-Bridger, Benedict. "MP with two homes minutes from Commons claims £37,000 expenses".Archived 28 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, London Evening Standard, 24 March 2009.
  41. ^ "Another minister, Dawn Butler, attacked over second-home allowance". The Times. London. 24 March 2009.
  42. ^ Watt, Holly (19 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: Dawn Butler doubles up on home charges". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  43. ^ "First Report of Session 2009–10" Archived 14 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine. House of Commons Members Estimate Committee – Review of past ACA payments.
  44. ^ "Anthony Watson and Linda Riley to advise Labour on challenges facing LGBTQ community". Gay Times. 26 February 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  45. ^ "Week at luxury Sicily hotel for two-day tourism conference shadow equalities minister spent | Travel Wire News | Travel Newswire". Travel Wire News | Travel Newswire. 22 August 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  46. ^ "Senior Labour figures reportedly embroiled in row over whether giraffes are gay". PinkNews. 28 October 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  47. ^ Benedictus, Leo (29 October 2019). "Are 90% of giraffes gay – or have their loving looks been misunderstood?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  48. ^ "Labour's Dawn Butler apologises after getting figures hopelessly wrong in LBC interview". LBC. 20 November 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  49. ^ Butler, Dawn (20 November 2019). "Sorry I made a mistake on the figures. It was 300 not 3000. But as I said the point is we almost eradicated homelessness under a Labour government but now it has dramatically increased. @UKLabour will eradicate homelessness when we are elected on the 12th December". @DawnButlerBrent. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  50. ^ McGuinness, Ross (18 February 2020). "'Surreal position' – Labour MP Dawn Butler criticised for comment that 'a child is born without sex'". Yahoo. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  51. ^ "'Surreal position' – Labour MP Dawn Butler criticised for comment that 'a child is born without sex'". uk.news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  52. ^ "Dawn Butler explains why only trans people can define transphobia in a way that's impossible to argue with". PinkNews - Gay news, reviews and comment from the world's most read lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans news service. 22 February 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2020.

External links[edit]

Online interviews[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Paul Boateng
Member of Parliament
for Brent South

Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Sarah Teather
Member of Parliament
for Brent Central

Political offices
New office Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities
Title next held by
Title next held by
Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities
Preceded by
Sarah Champion
Shadow Minister for Black and Minority Ethnic Communities