Priti Patel

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The Right Honourable
Priti Patel
Priti Patel Minister.jpg
Minister of State for Employment
Assumed office
11 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Esther McVey
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 43)
London, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Alex Sawyer
Children Freddie
Alma mater Keele University
University of Essex

Priti Patel (born 29 March 1972) is a British politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Witham constituency in Essex since 2010, and is now the Minister of State for Employment, since 11 May 2015, sitting in the cabinet. She is also a member of the Public Administration Select Committee.[1] A member of the Conservative Party, she is ideologically located on the right-wing of the party.

Patel was born in London to a Ugandan Asian 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 unsuccessfully stood as the party's candidate for the constituency of Nottingham North in the 2005 general election. Under the Conservative leadership of David Cameron, Patel was identified as being on the party's "A-List" of prospective candidates, and was elected MP for the Conservative safe seat of Witham at the 2010 general election.

A controversial figure in British politics, Patel has been criticised for lobbying for the tobacco and alcohol industries, and for publicly claiming that British workers are lazy.

Early life[edit]

Patel was born in London, England,[2] on 29 March 1972,[3] She grew up in South Harrow and Ruislip.[citation needed] Her parents were Ugandan immigrants of Gujarati origin who came to Britain in the 1960s, departing Uganda shortly before Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Ugandan Asians.[4] They set up a series 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 at the University of Essex.[7] She joined the Conservative Party while John Major was prime minister.[4]

Early career[edit]

After graduating, Patel was given a job by Andrew Lansley (then a Head of the Conservative Research Department) at Conservative Central Office. From 1995 to 1997, she headed the press office for the Referendum Party which polled over 800,000 votes in the 1997 general election.

After the 1997 general election, the Conservative Party changed from having criteria before entering the Euro to asserting they now would only join the currency if there was a referendum on the issue.[citation needed] Patel then left the Referendum Party and rejoined the Conservative Party having been given a post to work for the new leader William Hague in his press office,[8] dealing with media relations in London and the South East.

Following an article in the Financial Times in August 2003,[9] where she stated that racist attitudes persisted in the Conservative Party ("Racist attitudes do persist within the party.... There's a lot of bigotry around."), she wrote to the FT[10] to complain that the article misinterpreted her comments in implying that she had been blocked as a candidate for the party because of her ethnicity.

She then left her post to work for Weber Shandwick, a public relations consultancy, advising major companies.[11] In the 2005 general election, she stood as the Conservative candidate for Nottingham North, losing in a landslide result to its long-standing Labour MP Graham Allen by 5,671 votes (18.7%) to 17,842 votes (58.7%).[12]

During her work at Weber Shandwick, she lobbied on behalf of British American Tobacco for several years, with a memo from their 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 Shandwick felt uncomfortable about doing such work for Big Tobacco, but noted that "Priti [and another employee] seem quite relaxed working with us".[13]

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.[14]

Patel then moved to Diageo, a British multinational alcoholic beverages company and worked in the corporate relations team between 2003–2007, shaping "a global strategy on responsible drinking" according to PRWeek. 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."[15]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Notwithstanding her unsuccessful attempt to win Nottingham North in the 2005 general election, Patel was identified as a promising candidate by new party leader David Cameron, and accepted a place on the "A-List" of Conservative candidates.[9] In November 2006, she was adopted as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the notionally safe Conservative seat of Witham—a new constituency in central Essex created after a boundary review[16][17]—before winning it with a sizeable majority in the 2010 general election. She was drafted into the Number 10 Policy Unit in October 2013,[18] and was promoted to Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury the following summer.[2] After the 2015 general election, Patel rose to cabinet level as Minister of State for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions.[19]

Patel is on the right wing of the Conservative Party—she has been described as a "modern-day Norman Tebbit"[20][21]—and served on the 1922 Committee's Executive before becoming a minister.[22] 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.[23] She also opposes prisoner voting. Kelvin MacKenzie has suggested she would make a good Home Secretary, as "the country would know bad guys would be going away for a hell of a long time."[24] She has also opposed allowing Jeremy Bamber, whose murders occurred in her constituency, access to media to protest his innocence.[25] Patel had a mixed voting record on allowing same-sex marriage,[26] but ultimately voted against the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.[27] She is an officer of Conservative Friends of Israel.[28]

Patel has been criticised for raising issues in parliament related to her time working for the tobacco and alcohol industries.[29] As a parliamentarian, Patel has remained very supportive of tobacco industry positions: in October 2010, she voted for the smoking ban to be overturned; in December 2010, she signed a letter demanding 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, which campaigned for the end of the alcohol duty escalator and is supported the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, the Scotch Whisky Association and the TaxPayers' Alliance.[30]

She also courted controversy with a book that she co-authored, Britannia Unchained (2012). The work criticises British workers, claiming that: "Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world".[31] When contacted by journalists about her contributions to the book, Patel refused to discuss the subject.[32]

Patel maintains an interest in her ancestral homeland of India. She lodged a complaint to the BBC alleging one-sided coverage that was critical of Narendra Modi on the eve of his victory in 2014 Indian elections.[33][34] On 6 January 2015, Patel was honoured by Chandmal Kumawat, Chairman of Maneesh Media Group, as a proud personality of Jewels of Gujarat: Leading Global Gujarati Personalities.[35]

Personal life[edit]

In July 2004, Patel married Alex Sawyer. They have a son, Freddie, born in August 2008.[36]


  1. ^ "Profile: Priti Patel". Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Priti Patel MP: Who is the new Treasury minister who supports death penalty and rejects plain packaging for cigarettes?". The Independent. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Democracy Live: Priti Patel MP". Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Priti Patel, MP: The New Face Of Britain’s Conservative Party". International Business Times. 8 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Priti Patel: saviour of the Tory Right". Total Politics. October 2012. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  6. ^ "Pen portraits of the 10 Conservative women ministers who were promoted in the reshuffle". The Telegraph. 15 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "The Conservative women on the rise in Cameron's reshuffle". BBC News. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  8. ^ "This week's panel". Question Time. BBC. 15 March 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Brant, Robin (4 December 2006). "A year on, has the A-list worked?". BBC News. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ David Singleton (11 May 2010). "''PR Week'' 11 May 2010 "Many lobbyists win seats but some see majority decreased" by David Singleton". Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ Jamie Doward (30 May 2015). "Minister worked as spin doctor for tobacco giant that paid workers £15 a month". Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "WHO-FCTC - Outcomes of first INB Session". Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "Tory rising star returns to Weber Shandwick". Weber Shandwick. Archived from the original on 16 January 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "Priti Patel takes Witham by storm". East Anglian Daily Times. [dead link]
  17. ^ Dines, Graham (21 November 2006). "Priti Patel takes Witham by storm". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  18. ^ "New Number 10 policy board announced". The Spectator. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  19. ^ "Priti Patel appointed as Employment Minister". ITV News. 

    Patel was duly sworn in as a member of the Privy Council on 14 May 2015.

  20. ^ "Tory rightwinger Priti Patel promoted to Treasury". The Guardian. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  21. ^ "Priti Patel: saviour of the Tory Right". Total Politics. October 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  22. ^ "About Priti". Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  23. ^ Helyer, Rachel (23 September 2011). "Furore as Priti Patel urges return of death penalty". Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  24. ^ Gockelen-Kozlowski, Tom (5 October 2012). "Priti Patel takes Witham by storm". Total Politics. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  25. ^ "Why was killer Bamber given access to media?". Maldon Standard. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  26. ^ "Priti Patel MP, Witham". TheyWorkForYou. mySociety. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  27. ^ Duffy, Nick. "Here's how the new Cabinet voted on same-sex marriage". PinkNews. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  28. ^ "About Conservative Friends of Israel". Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  29. ^ Doward, Jamie (3 May 2014). "Tory cigarette packaging rebel Priti Patel is ex-tobacco lobbyist". Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  30. ^ "Call Time On Duty campaign makes its case to Parliamentarians". Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  31. ^ "Tackle 'lazy' Britain, fellow Tories tell David Cameron". Evening Standard. 17 August 2012. 
  32. ^ Ramesh, Randeep (17 August 2012). "Tory young bloods say Britons are idlers who need to emulate Asia". Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  33. ^ "Indian-origin MP takes BBC's 'Modi coverage' complaint to UK ministry". THE TIMES OF INDIA. 22 June 2014. 
  34. ^ "British PM Cameron's aide takes on BBC over critical comments against Modi". HINDUSTAN TIMES. 20 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "UK Minister Priti Patel honoured at 'Jewels of Gujarat' reception". British High Commission, New Delhi. 7 January 2015. 
  36. ^ "Newborn Freddie is the Tory party's youngest member | This is Essex". 14 August 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 

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