Priti Patel

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The Right Honourable
Priti Patel
Priti Patel 2016.jpg
Secretary of State for International Development
Assumed office
14 July 2016
Prime Minister Theresa May
Preceded by Justine Greening
Minister of State for Employment
In office
11 May 2015 – 14 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Esther McVey
Succeeded by Damian Hinds
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury
In office
15 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by David Gauke
Succeeded by Damian Hinds
Member of Parliament
for Witham
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Constituency established
Majority 19,554 (41.5%)
Personal details
Born (1972-03-29) 29 March 1972 (age 45)
London, England
Political party Conservative (Before 1995; 1997–present)
Referendum (1995–1997)
Spouse(s) Alex Sawyer
Children Freddie
Alma mater Keele University
University of Essex
Religion Hindu

Priti Sushil Patel[1] PC MP (born 28 March 1972) is a British politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Witham constituency in Essex since 2010. She is currently Secretary of State for International Development. A member of the Conservative Party, she is regarded as being ideologically on the party's right-wing and has been described as a Thatcherite.

Patel was born in London to a Ugandan Indian migrant family. Educated at Keele University and the University of Essex, she was initially involved with the Referendum Party before switching allegiance to the Conservatives. She worked for the public relations consultancy firm Weber Shandwick for several years, as part of which she lobbied for the tobacco and alcohol industries. Pursuing a political career, she unsuccessfully contested Nottingham North at the 2005 general election. After David Cameron became Conservative leader, he recommended Patel for the party's "A-List" of prospective candidates. She was first elected MP for Witham, a Conservative safe seat, at the 2010 general election, before being re-elected in 2015.

Under Cameron's government, Patel was appointed Minister of State for Employment. A longstanding Eurosceptic, Patel was a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign during the build-up to the 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union. Following Cameron's resignation, Patel backed Theresa May as Conservative leader; May subsequently appointed Patel as International Development Secretary.

A sometimes outspoken figure, Patel has been criticised by political opponents for defending the tobacco and alcohol industries; and for suggesting in an economic treatise that British workers are lazy.

Early life[edit]

Patel was born on 29 March 1972,[2] and was brought up in South Harrow and Ruislip.[3] Her parents were Ugandan immigrants of Gujarati origin who came to Hertfordshire, England, in the 1960s, departing Uganda shortly before President Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Ugandan Asians.[4] They established a chain of newsagents in London and the South East of England.[5]

Patel attended Watford Grammar School for Girls in Watford,[6] before studying Economics, Sociology and Social Anthropology at Keele University, completing her postgraduate studies in British Government and the University of Essex.[7] The Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher became her political hero: according to Patel, she "had a unique ability to understand what made people tick, households tick and businesses tick. Managing the economy, balancing the books and making decisions – not purchasing things the country couldn't afford".[8]

She first joined the Conservative Party as a teenager, when John Major was Prime Minister.[4]

Early career[edit]

After graduating, Patel was recruited by Andrew Lansley (then Head of the Conservative Research Department) at Conservative Central Office having, from 1995 to 1997, headed the press office of the Referendum Party which polled over 800,000 votes at the 1997 general election.

After 1997, the Conservative Party's policy over the Euro changed, and Patel then left the Referendum Party and rejoined the Conservative Party having been offered a post to work for the new leader William Hague in his press office,[9] dealing with media relations in London and the South East of England.

The Financial Times published an article in August 2003 alleging that "racist attitudes" persisted in the Conservative Party, and that "there's a lot of bigotry around".[10] She then wrote to the FT countering its article which had misinterpreted her comments as implying she had been blocked as a party candidate because of her ethnicity.[11]

She then left Conservative HQ to work for Weber Shandwick, a public relations consultancy, advising major companies.[12] At the 2005 general election, she stood as the Conservative candidate for Nottingham North, losing heavily to its long-standing Labour MP Graham Allen by 5,671 votes (18.7%) to 17,842 votes (58.7%).[13]

During her work at Weber Shandwick, she lobbied on behalf of British American Tobacco (BAT) for several years, with a memo from that company showing that she was employed to "provide strategic advice on the account with a particular focus on the Conservative Party", billing the company for over £20,000 per month. BAT documents released in 2015 after a legal action indicate that she worked closely on a project to limit the damage to the company's reputation that its Burmese investments had caused; BAT paid its Burmese factory workers £15 a month, and Patel was paid £165 an hour to counter the negative publicity that the company's wage agreements generated. One BAT senior executive complained that Weber Shandwick felt uncomfortable about doing such work for a tobacco firm, but noted that "Priti [and another employee] seem quite relaxed working with us".[14]

In November 2000, Patel was part of a strategy group looking at how BAT could influence the outcome of the World Health Organisation's negotiations on developing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.[15]

Patel then moved to Diageo, the British multinational alcoholic beverages company, and worked in corporate relations between 2003 and 2007, shaping "a global strategy on responsible drinking" according to PR Week. On her re-appointment to Weber Shandwick in 2007 Patel was reported as having been in the Corporate Relations team at Diageo Plc, where she "worked on international public policy issues related to the wider impact of alcohol in society."[16]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Under David Cameron's Premiership: 2010–15[edit]

After unsuccessfully contesting Nottingham North at the 2005 general election, Patel was identified as a promising candidate by new party leader David Cameron, and was offered a place on the "A-List" of Conservative prospective parliamentary candidates (PPC).[10] In November 2006, she was adopted as the PPC for the notionally safe Conservative seat of Witham—a new constituency in central Essex created after a boundary review[17][18]—before winning it with a sizeable majority at the 2010 general election. She was drafted into the Number 10 Policy Unit in October 2013,[19] and was promoted as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury the following summer.[2]

Patel's publicity photograph

Along with fellow Conservative MPs Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss, Patel was considered one of the "Class of 2010" who represented the party's "new Right".[20] Together they co-authored Britannia Unchained, a book published in 2012. This work was critical of levels of workplace productivity in the UK, making the controversial statement that "once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world". The authors suggested that to change this situation, the UK should reduce the size of the welfare state and seek to emulate the working conditions in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea rather than those of other European nations.[21][22]

In October 2014, Patel criticised the plan of the Academies Enterprise Trust to merge the New Rickstones and Maltings Academies, claiming that to do so would be detrimental to school standards.[23] Patel lodged a complaint with the BBC alleging one-sided coverage critical of Narendra Modi on the eve of his victory in 2014 Indian elections.[24][25] In January 2015, Patel was presented with a "Jewels of Gujarat" award in Ahmedabad, India, and in the city she gave a keynote speech at the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce.[26]

In the general election of May 2015—a Conservative victory—Patel retained her parliamentary seat with 27,123 votes, increasing her majority by 4000.[27] During the campaign, she had criticised Labour Party rival John Clarke for referring to her as a "sexy Bond villain" and a "village idiot" on social media; he had apologised.[28] After the election, Patel rose to Cabinet-level as Minister of State for Employment in the Department for Work and Pensions,[29] and was sworn of the Privy Council on 14 May 2015. In December 2015, Patel voted to support Cameron's planned bombing of Islamic State targets in Syria.[30]

Following Cameron's announcement of a referendum on the UK's continuing membership of the European Union (EU), Patel was widely touted as a likely "poster girl" for the Vote Leave campaign.[31] Claiming that the EU is "undemocratic and interferes too much in our daily lives", Patel publicly stated that immigration from elsewhere in the EU was overstretching the resources of UK schools.[32] She helped to launch the Women For Britain campaign for anti-EU women; at their launch party, she compared their campaign with that of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes, for which she was criticised by Emmeline's great-granddaughter Helen Pankhurst.[33]

Following the success of the 'Leave' vote in the EU referendum, Cameron resigned, resulting in a leadership contest within the party. Patel openly supported Theresa May as his successor, claiming that she had the "strength and experience" for the job, while arguing that May's main challenger Andrea Leadsom would prove too divisive to win a general election.[34]

Department for International Development[edit]

Patel greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Heathrow Airport, London; 12 November 2015.

After becoming Prime Minister, in July 2016 May appointed Patel to the position of International Development Secretary. Patel described herself as being "delighted" with the post despite a statement made in 2013 suggesting that the Department for International Development should be scrapped and replaced with a Department for International Trade and Development.[35] Many staff at the department were concerned about Patel's appointment, both because of her support for Brexit and because of her longstanding scepticism regarding international development and aid spending.[36]

On taking the position, Patel stated that too much UK aid was wasted or spent inappropriately, declaring that she would adopt an approach rooted in "core Conservative principles" and emphasise international development through trade as opposed to aid.[37] In September, Patel announced that Britain would contribute £1.1 billion to a global aid fund used to combat malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, but added that any further aid deals would include "performance agreements" meaning that the British Government could reduce aid by 10% if specific criteria were not met by the recipient country.[38]

In September 2016 she expressed opposition to the construction of 28 affordable homes at the Lakelands development in Stanway, referring to it as an "unacceptable loss of open space" and criticising Colchester Borough Council for permitting it.[39] That same month, the council's chief executive Adrian Pritchard issued a complaint against Patel, claiming that she had acted "inappropriately" in urging Sajid Javid to approve the construction of an out-of-town retail park after it had already been rejected by Colchester Council.[40] Also in September, proposals were put forward for a change to the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies across Britain. As a result of the plans, Patel's seat of Witham would be merged with neighbouring Maldon. This would potentially require her to compete against Maldon MP John Whittingdale for the new seat of Witham and Maldon.[41]

Political ideology and views[edit]

Margaret Thatcher, Patel's political idol

Patel is considered to be on the right-wing of the Conservative Party,[8][42] with the Total Politics website noting that some saw her as a "modern-day Norman Tebbit".[8] In The Guardian, the economics commentator Aditya Chakrabortty characterised her as "an out-and-out rightwinger" who has no desire to "claim the centre ground" in politics.[43] Patel has cited Thatcher as her political idol,[8] with various news sources characterising her as a Thatcherite,[8][20] and while profiling Patel for The Independent, Tom Peck noted that she "could scarcely be more of a Thatcherite".[44] She served on the 1922 Committee before appointment as a Minister,[45] and is an officer of Conservative Friends of Israel.[46]

She has taken robust stances on crime, garnering headlines after she argued for the restoration of capital punishment on the BBC's Question Time in September 2011,[47] although as of 2016 she no longer holds this view.[48] She also opposes prisoner voting. She has also opposed allowing Jeremy Bamber, who was convicted of murder in her constituency, access to media to protest his innocence.[49] Patel had a mixed voting record, guided by her constituents' views, on allowing same-sex marriage[50] but ultimately voted against the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.[51]

Patel has been criticised by some for raising issues in the House of Commons related to her time working for the tobacco and alcohol industries.[52] As a parliamentarian, Patel has been consistently supportive of tobacco industry viewpoints: in October 2010, she voted for the smoking ban to be overturned; in December 2010, she signed a letter requesting that plain packaging for cigarettes be reconsidered. Patel has also campaigned with the drinks industry, holding a reception in parliament for the Call Time On Duty Campaign in favour of ending the alcohol duty escalator supported the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, the Scotch Whisky Association and the Tax Payers' Alliance.[53]

Personal life[edit]

In July 2004, Patel married Alex Sawyer. They have a son, Freddie, born in August 2008.[54] By religion she is Hindu.[55]


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  23. ^ Will Lodge (15 October 2014). "Witham: MP Priti Patel voices opposition to merger of Maltings and New Rickstones Academies". East Anglian Daily News. Archived from the original on 10 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "Indian-origin MP takes BBC's 'Modi coverage' complaint to UK ministry". The Times of India. 22 June 2014. 
  25. ^ "British PM Cameron's aide takes on BBC over critical comments against Modi". Hindustan Times. 20 June 2014. 
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  32. ^ Rowena Mason (21 June 2016). "Priti Patel warns of EU migration threat to UK class sizes". The Guardian. 
  33. ^ Annabelle Dickson (8 March 2016). "Essex MP under fire for likening women who campaign to leave the European Union to the suffragettes". East Anglian Daily Times. 
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  37. ^ Ben Quinn (14 September 2016). "Priti Patel plans foreign aid overhaul based on 'core Tory values'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  38. ^ Peter Dominiczak (18 September 2016). "Britain will withhold foreign aid money if performance countries' targets are not met". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. 
  39. ^ Matt Stott (6 September 2016). "Witham MP Priti Patel labels Colchester Borough Council 'rotten' in Stanway housing development dispute". East Anglian Daily Times. Archived from the original on 6 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  40. ^ Ryan Jennings (20 September 2016). "Council claims MP acted 'inappropriately' in Tollgate planning row". Daly Gazette. 
  41. ^ Matt Stott (13 September 2016). "Witham MP Priti Patel and Maldon MP John Whittingdale set to fight over merged seat at 2020 General Election". East Anglian Daily Times. 
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  48. ^
  49. ^ "Why was killer Bamber given access to media?". Maldon Standard. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
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  51. ^ Duffy, Nick. "Here's how the new Cabinet voted on same-sex marriage". PinkNews. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
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  55. ^ Antonia Filmer (11 April 2015). "UK Hindus list demands before may election". Retrieved 4 July 2016. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Witham

Political offices
Preceded by
David Gauke
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Damian Hinds
Preceded by
Esther McVey
Minister of State for Employment
Succeeded by
Damian Hinds
Preceded by
Justine Greening
Secretary of State for International Development