Mark MacGregor (born 25 February 1961) is a British Conservative Party politician. As a student, he was Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students. Subsequently, he fought several parliamentary elections for the party, became chief executive of Conservative Central Office from 2002 to 2003 and then ran Steve Norris' campaign to become Mayor of London in 2004. He has run various businesses, including a communications company, Marketforce Communications Ltd, an events firm and a cloud technology company, Connect Support Services Ltd. He was appointed Deputy Director of Policy Exchange in early 2013
MacGregor was born in 1961. He was educated at Emanuel School in London and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, where he graduated with a degree in Economics and Modern History. He was previously the National Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), where he was associated with the libertarian faction.
In October 2002, MacGregor accepted undisclosed libel damages and a public apology at the High Court over allegations in Punch magazine. Mr Justice Eady was told that MacGregor had never been chairman or a member of the Young Monday Club, nor had he ever supported forced or voluntary repatriation of immigrants, as had been falsely claimed by the magazine. Mr MacGregor also successfully sued the Daily Mail for libel over similar allegations related to his period as Chairman of the FCS.
Worked for Michael Forsyth Ltd, and then became the founder Director of Marketforce Communications, his own PR agency and conference organiser. From 2007, he has been chief executive of cloud and IT service company Connect Support Services
MacGregor contested the South Thanet constituency for the first time in 2001. On that occasion Stephen Ladyman polled 18,002 votes for Labour (45.7%) while MacGregor got 16,210 for the Conservatives (41.1%). He stood once again in the 2005 general election, when he failed by 664 votes to defeat Ladyman, and BBC suggests the 2,079 votes gained by the UK Independence Party candidate, Nigel Farage, is likely to have cost MacGregor the seat.
Internal party posts
MacGregor was elected Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students in 1985, and Chairman of the National Association of Conservative Graduates, 1989–90.
Conservative Central Office
In 2002, MacGregor was named the new chief executive of the Conservative Central Office appointed by Iain Duncan Smith on becoming Party leader. In his psychometric evaluation, he was judged to have "a brilliant mind". One of his first actions as chief executive was to push through a £1 million budget cut to stabilise the party's poor finances.
In his role, MacGregor was credited with drafting the speech for the then Chairman of the Conservative Party, Theresa May MP, which described the Tories as "the nasty party". Former front-bencher, John Bercow said MacGregor was "talented" and "extraordinarily imaginative" and had organised a successful 2002 Party conference.
In a dispute over the leadership of Duncan-Smith, Tebbit called for MacGregor's dismissal as the party's chief executive in 2002. Tebbit branded MacGregor as "one of the spotty youths" who were trying to make the Tories more socially inclusive. Tebbit said: "I don't think he was a good chief executive... I think that he was not a good influence in Central Office." MacGregor was replaced by the former MP, Barry Legg.
Central Office was quoted as saying that MacGregor's departure was "long-planned and by mutual consent". He wanted to become a parliamentary candidate and could not do so while chief executive, but he had reportedly clashed with Smith both over policy and organisational issues as well as the vexed issue of Duncan-Smith's wife working for her husband. (See #Betsygate)
Central Office claims were undermined the following day when Michael Portillo MP (a leadership rival to Duncan-Smith), raised fresh doubts about Iain Duncan Smith's leadership of the Conservatives saying he was deeply disappointed by the replacement of Mark MacGregor. Portillo said : "Mark MacGregor and Rick Nye are two of the most talented people that the party has ever employed and their achievements will be badly missed." John Bercow praised MacGregor's loyalty, but also lamented the loss of his talent and creativity, adding "the modernising agenda has been at best, sidelined and at worst, lost".
Personal political allegiances
MacGregor was an active member of the Thatcherite 'Conservative Way Forward' group in the 1990s though he is no longer involved in the organisation. Robbie Gibb one-time Chief of Staff for Francis Maude and brother of Nick Gibb, MP was best man at MacGregor 's first wedding. The two were near neighbours in Pimlico in the 1990s and have been friends since MacGregor was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students and Gibb a leader of the Conservative Students in the mid-Eighties.
In the 1983 and 1987 General Elections, MacGregor worked for Michael Forsyth who was elected in the marginal seat of Stirling in Scotland. He was Francis Maude's campaign manager in the 1992 General Election. Maude would lose his marginal North Warwickshire seat, despite winning more votes than at the election before.
Staunch supporter of Michael Portillo, MacGregor was thought to be behind the decision to install extra phone lines in a house in Lord North Street in 1995, as a possible campaign HQ for Portillo when it appeared Major was on the point of being ousted by the right.
Allegations which surfaced concerning the payment, out of the Parliamentary purse, of wages to Betsy Duncan Smith led to an investigation into the conduct of IDS by the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges.
In January 2006, the Conservatives launched an inquiry into the "Betsygate affair" and MacGregor's alleged role in it. The Sunday Telegraph revealed that the party had been re-investigating the saga surrounding payments made by the former leader, Iain Duncan Smith, to his wife, Betsy, for secretarial work in 2003. In the private report MacGregor was cleared of any wrongdoing. IDS, however, lays the blame for his downfall completely at MacGregor's feet, and threatened to resign the party whip if either MacGregor or alleged co-conspirator Vanessa Gearson were ever again able to stand as Conservative candidates.
MacGregor and Gearson were reinserted on the parliamentary candidates list, despite protests from the traditionalist Cornerstone Group of backbenchers, although he was not later reselected by the Thanet South Conservative Association, losing to Laura Sandys who later became the MP.
In 2007, MacGregor resumed his business career becoming chief executive of cloud and IT services business, Connect Support Services. In 2011, Connect purchased the assets of Hosted Revolution Ltd and in 2012 acquired Thinhost Ltd, both cloud service providers.
In 2013, he was appointed Deputy Director of Policy Exchange.
- Mark MacGregor, BBC Election 97
- News section, Page 4, Get Carter Ruck, June/July 2003
- The backroom boys (and girls), Daily Telegraph, 21 March 2002
- Mark MacGregor, General Election 1997, The Guardian
- Election 2001 results & constituencies, BBC News, 2001.
- Election 2005 results & reaction, BBC News, 6 May 2005.
- UKIP leader 'offered Tory seat', Brian Wheeler, BBC News, 5 December 2006.
- IDS: rising from the ashes?, Edward Vaizey, New Statesman, 4 March 2002
- Tories warned over modernisation, BBC News, 21 February 2003
- Duncan-Smith must sack the squabbling children, Norman Tebbit, Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2002
- New anger at Tory leader, Jason Beattie, The Scotsman, 20 February 2003
- Duncan Smith appoints Right-winger party chief, Andrew Sparrow and David Millward, Daily Telegraph 15 February 2003
- Tory fury at 'tapas plot' over Hague, Andy McSmith, The Guardian, 23 January 2000
- Report, House of Commons Committee of Standards and Privileges, 2003
- Aide's email warning of risk to IDS triggered investigation, Andrew Sparrow and Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph 13 October 2003
- Cameron faces backlash over 'Betsygate' officials, Brendan Carlin, Daily Telegraph 26 May 2006