John Denham (politician)

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John Denham

John Denham.jpg
Parliamentary Private Secretary
to the Leader of the Opposition
In office
8 October 2011 – 17 April 2013
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byAnne McGuire
and Michael Dugher
Succeeded byKaren Buck
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
In office
8 October 2010 – 6 October 2011
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byPat McFadden
Succeeded byChuka Umunna
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
11 May 2010 – 8 October 2010
LeaderHarriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded byCaroline Spelman
Succeeded byCaroline Flint
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byHazel Blears
Succeeded byEric Pickles
Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
In office
28 June 2007 – 5 June 2009
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byAlan Johnson (Education and Skills)
Succeeded byThe Lord Mandelson (Business, Innovation and Skills)
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee
In office
14 June 2003 – 27 June 2007
Preceded byChris Mullin
Succeeded byKeith Vaz
Minister of State for Policing
In office
11 June 2001 – 12 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byPaul Boateng
Succeeded byHazel Blears
Minister of State for Health Services
In office
30 December 1998 – 11 June 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byAlan Milburn
Succeeded byJacqui Smith
Minister of State for Social Security
In office
28 July 1998 – 30 December 1998
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byFrank Field
Succeeded byStephen Timms
Member of Parliament
for Southampton Itchen
In office
9 April 1992 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byChristopher Chope
Succeeded byRoyston Smith
Personal details
Born (1953-07-15) 15 July 1953 (age 66)
Seaton, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Ruth Eleanor Dixon (Divorced)
EducationWoodroffe School[1]
Alma materUniversity of Southampton

John Yorke Denham FRSA[2] (born 15 July 1953) is an English Labour Party politician who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Southampton Itchen from 1992 to 2015.[1] He served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills from 2007 to 2009 and as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2009 to 2010.

He was the Shadow Business Secretary in Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet from 2010 to 2011, when he announced that he would be standing down as an MP at the next election, and retired from the front-bench in order to become Miliband's Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Denham is director of the English Labour Network.

Early life[edit]

John Denham was born in Seaton, Devon and attended Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and the University of Southampton, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, and served as president of the Students' Union in the academic year 1976–77.[1]

After leaving education in 1977 he became an advice worker at the Energy Advice Agency in Durham, before becoming a transport campaigner with Friends of the Earth in 1978. He was Head of Youth Affairs at the British Council from 1979 until 1983, and was responsible for public education and advocacy for War on Want from 1984 to 1988. He subsequently worked for Christian Aid, Oxfam and other development agencies until his election to Westminster.


Prior to being elected as an MP, John Denham served as a local Councillor, initially as a member of the Hampshire County Council in 1981, where he remained until 1989 when he was elected as a councillor on Southampton City Council, on which he served until 1993 and was the Chairman of the City's Housing Committee. He was selected to contest the Southampton Itchen seat at the 1983 general election following the defection to the Social Democratic Party of the sitting Labour MP Bob Mitchell. The election proved to be a close run affair with Denham coming in third place, Mitchell in second, and the victor was the Conservative Christopher Chope who gained the seat with a majority of 5,290.

Denham again contested the seat at the 1987 general election, he overtook Mitchell into second place but was still behind Chope who held his seat with a majority of 6,716.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Denham took the seat at the third attempt at the 1992 general election, when he defeated Chope by just 551 votes and remained an MP for 23 years (since 1997 Chope has been MP for the safe Conservative seat of Christchurch, Dorset.). Mitchell did not fight the election this time. Denham made his maiden speech on 20 May 1992, reminding people that the Pilgrim Fathers left from Southampton, and not Plymouth as is widely thought, on their historic voyage to North America.[3]

John Denham has held the following positions:

In government[edit]

Denham became a member of the Environment Select Committee in 1993, and was promoted to the frontbench by Tony Blair in 1995 as a spokesman on social security. After the 1997 general election he entered the Blair government as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Social Security, being promoted within the department to the rank of Minister of State in 1998. Following the promotion to the cabinet of Alan Milburn, Denham moved to the Department of Health in 1999.

Resignation over Iraq War[edit]

Following the 2001 general election he became a Minister of State at the Home Office, until he resigned in March 2003 over the Iraq War.[4]

After his resignation, Denham was appointed in July 2003 as chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee. Despite speculation following the 2005 general election that he would return as a member of the Government, he did not do so, although in the post-election reshuffle there were reports that he was offered – and accepted – the cabinet post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, before being told that the post had been assigned instead to Des Browne.

Though regarded as a Blairite, Denham was a regular critic of the Blair administration as chair of the Home Affairs committee.[citation needed]

Return to Government[edit]

Following Brown's installation as Prime Minister in June 2007, Denham was named to take over the new post of Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.[5] In September 2007, he announced funding for students taking second degrees would be re-allocated to allow more students to take first degrees: adult and continuing education institutions such as the Open University, Birkbeck, University of London, and lifelong learning departments throughout the country, have voiced angry protest at the proposals.[6][7][8]

During Denham's tenure as Secretary of State, he also announced an extension of maintenance grants to students from households earning up to £60,000 a year.[9] The changes mean that an additional 50,000 students would be entitled to a full grant and an additional 100,000 students would be entitled to a partial grant.

As part of the Cabinet reshuffle on 5 June 2009, Denham was appointed to the role of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He replaced Hazel Blears who had resigned from the post on 3 June 2009.

On 7 October 2011, Denham announced that he would be standing down at the 2015 general election.[10]

In June 2012, Denham said that Labour knew as early as 2005 that the immigration estimates they had relied on were "vastly wrong".[11]

Personal life[edit]

John Denham has also been a member of the Executive Committee of the Fabian Society[12] for several years, participating in many events and co-authoring a pamphlet on pensions as well as making several speeches and publishing articles in this forum. He is also a member of the 'Parliamentarian Fellows' scheme at the London School of Economics' Institute of Public Affairs.[13]

Academically he also leads the University of Winchester’s Centre for English Identity and Politics as a Professor, as well as being granted an Honorary Doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Southampton on 13 July 2016 .[14]

Denham is Chair of the Southern Policy Centre,[15] which he co-founded with Professor Francis Davis [16] as a thinktank responding to challenges and opportunities for southern England with specialisms in open data research and new forms of public participation in politics.[17]

He was seen as a government loyalist and University of Southampton Students' Union had revoked his lifetime membership for his support of tuition fees. He married Ruth Eleanor Dixon[1] and they have a son, Edward, and a daughter, Rosie (a former Labour councillor in Exeter); they have now divorced. He has another child, born in 2005.[citation needed]

In an interview[18] with the Daily Telegraph, Denham announced he was a secular humanist, although he also said he learnt a lot from his Church of England upbringing.



  1. ^ a b c d Anon (2017). "Denham, Rt Hon. John (Yorke)". Who's Who. (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U13465. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ "List of Ministers' Interests" (PDF). March 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  3. ^ [1] Archived 5 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Minister resigns over Iraq crisis". BBC News Online. 18 March 2003.
  5. ^ "Brown unveils huge Cabinet revamp". BBC News Online. 28 June 2007.
  6. ^ Lipsett, Anthea (13 September 2007). "Universities attack minister for cutting degree funding". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ Shepherd, Jessica (18 September 2007). "Shocked, puzzled and annoyed". The Guardian. London.
  8. ^ MacLeod, Donald (12 October 2007). "Universities attack degree funding cuts". The Guardian. London.
  9. ^ "John Denham announces more help for university students". John Denham. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Denham to stand down as MP". Southern Daily Echo. 7 October 2011.
  11. ^ Kirkup, James (22 June 2012). "Labour knew immigration was out of control seven years ago, says former minister". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  12. ^ "John Denham MP - The Fabian Society". Fabian Society. Archived from the original on 13 October 2010.
  13. ^ "John Denham MP - Parliamentarian Fellow at LSE IPA". LSE.
  14. ^ "Centre for English Identity and Politics". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Advisory board - Southern Policy Centre". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Professor Francis Davis appointed to the Office for Disability Issues".
  17. ^ "About us - Southern Policy Centre". Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  18. ^ Beckford, Martin (19 October 2009). "Communities Minister John Denham says he is a 'secular humanist'". The Daily Telegraph. London.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Christopher Chope
Member of Parliament
for Southampton Itchen

Succeeded by
Royston Smith
Political offices
Preceded by
Alan Johnson
as Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
Succeeded by
The Lord Mandelson
as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Preceded by
Hazel Blears
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Succeeded by
Eric Pickles
Preceded by
Eric Pickles
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Succeeded by
Caroline Flint
Preceded by
Pat McFadden
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Succeeded by
Chuka Umunna
Preceded by
Anne McGuire
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Karen Buck