Sarah Teather

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Sarah Teather
Sarah Teather MP at Harrogate.jpg
Teather in 2009
Minister of State for Children and Families
In office
13 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byDawn Primarolo
Succeeded byLiz Truss
Member of Parliament
for Brent Central
Brent East (2003–2010)
In office
19 September 2003 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byPaul Daisley
Succeeded byDawn Butler
Islington London Borough Councillor
In office
2 May 2002 – 23 September 2003[1]
Preceded bySheila Camp
Succeeded byJayashankar Sharma
Liberal Democrat frontbench posts
2008–2010Housing spokesperson
2007–2008Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform spokesperson
2007Innovation, Universities and Skills spokesperson
2006–2007Education and Skills spokesperson
Personal details
Sarah Louise Teather

(1974-06-01) 1 June 1974 (age 48)
Enfield, London, England
Political partyLiberal Democrats
Alma materSt John's College, Cambridge
WebsiteOfficial website

Sarah Louise Teather (born 1 June 1974)[2] is the Director of Jesuit Refugee Service UK and a former British Member of Parliament and Minister. As a Liberal Democrat politician, she founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Guantanamo Bay[3] and was chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees.[4] On stepping down as an MP, she joined the Jesuit Refugee Service as an advocacy adviser and was appointed as country director of JRS UK in December 2015.

After serving in the Islington London Borough Council, she was first elected as an MP on 18 September 2003 at the Brent East by-election and was re-elected with an increased majority at the 2005 general election.[2] After the seat was abolished due to boundary changes, Teather was selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the successor seat, Brent Central. Her main opponent was sitting Labour MP Dawn Butler, whose Brent South seat was also abolished. Teather won by a small margin, and, after the election, she served as Minister of State in the Department for Education in the coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats until she returned to the backbenches on 4 September 2012. On 7 September 2013, she announced that she would leave the House of Commons in 2015.[5]

Early life[edit]

Teather was educated at the independent Leicester Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge, where she gained a 2:1 degree in Natural Sciences specialising in pharmacology.[6]

Teather initially embarked on a PhD at University College London, but left the course at the end of her first year. She went on to work as a policy adviser for a number of prominent groups including the Royal Society and the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief.[7]

Teather first contested an election on 7 June 2001 in the seat of Finchley and Golders Green. On 3 May 2002 she was elected to Islington London Borough Council as one of the three councillors representing Hillrise Ward.[8] She was then appointed by the council to serve as a school governor at Ashmount School.

Subsequent to her first election as an MP she resigned from Islington Council, resigned as a school governor at Ashmount school and withdrew as a candidate for the Greater London Assembly seat in North East London.

In Westminster and Whitehall[edit]

Member of Parliament[edit]

In 2003 Teather was selected as the party's candidate in the Brent East by-election, which was called after the death of the Labour MP Paul Daisley.[9]

The by-election took place during the early stages of the Iraq War, which the Liberal Democrats strongly opposed under leader Charles Kennedy, and was a controversial involvement denting support for the Labour government. The Liberal Democrats came from third place behind Labour and the Conservatives, with a 39.12% share of the total and 1,118 majority. At 29, Teather became the youngest Member of Parliament, known as Baby of the House.[10] The by-election was Labour's first by-election defeat in 15 years.

In her maiden speech when first elected as an MP in 2003, she spoke about her opposition to tuition fees:[11]

Fear of debt is as real to many people as real debt. Top-up and tuition fees are serious issues of concern to my constituents. All the evidence suggests that fear of debt will deter those from lower income families and ethnic minority communities. This is particularly the case for Muslims – a large community in my constituency – where attitudes to debt are very different. ... I hope honourable members will oppose the measures when the time comes.

She successfully defended her seat in the 2005 general election, increasing her majority to over 2,700.[12] In May 2009, she was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of the "Saints" in the expenses scandal.[13] In Autumn 2006, she spent a week observing in schools, writing a daily blog of the experience for Guardian Unlimited.[14]

On 31 August 2006, she announced her intention to stand for the new Brent Central constituency.[15] In her campaign for re-election in May 2010, Teather reiterated her opposition to tuition fees, signing a pledge to vote against them. She defeated by 1,300 votes the Labour candidate Dawn Butler, who had been the MP for Brent South in the previous parliament,[16] despite Butler having a notional 50.1% share of the vote in the new constituency.[17]

She established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Guantanamo Bay in March 2007, and used the group to campaign against the detention without charge of Jamil el-Banna, a constituent. She visited Washington twice to lobby on his behalf, and also worked closely on the case with the anti-death penalty charity, Reprieve and Amnesty International.[18][19]

Liberal Democrats Frontbench Team[edit]

In parliament Teather became one of the highest-profile Liberal Democrat MPs. Initially acting as her party's spokesperson on London, after the 2005 general election she was promoted to the front bench to serve as Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Community and Local Government.[20]

On 6 January 2006, 25 Liberal Democrat MPs signed a letter drafted by Teather and fellow frontbencher Ed Davey, indicating their unwillingness to continue working under party leader Charles Kennedy. The Guardian claimed the letter to be "the most damning" of the publicly expressed sentiments regarding Kennedy's position,[21] and later that day Kennedy announced his resignation. Teather supported Sir Menzies Campbell in the subsequent leadership election.[22][23]

She was promoted again to Education spokesperson[24] following Sir Menzies Campbell's election as leader on 2 March 2006.[20] In 2007 Teather became Business spokesperson, followed by becoming Housing spokesperson from 2008.

Minister in the coalition government[edit]

Following the formation of the coalition government in May 2010 Teather became Minister of State for Children and Families.

In September 2010 The Sunday Times reported that she had been accused by several members of parliament of lobbying her boss, the Education Secretary Michael Gove, for two schools in her constituency to be spared from the government's plans to cancel refurbishment projects on over 700 schools nationwide.The plans for refurbishment of the two schools, which had been previously cancelled, was reinstated.[25]

On 13 July 2011, Teather told the Family and Parenting Institute that she was extremely worried about the £26,000 Benefit Cap that the Coalition Government was introducing as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.[26][27] Teather then failed to turn up to a number of key votes on the Welfare Reform Act despite there being a three-line whip,[28][29] which resulted in a number of Conservative backbench MPs publicly calling for her to be sacked.

In April 2011, Teather was questioned on BBC Television's Question Time over replacing the Education Maintenance Allowance. Arguing against the claim that fewer poor pupils would be served by its replacement, Teather claimed that it would actually be targeted better at those who actually needed government support.[30]

On 6 February 2012 Teather was part of a ministerial working group together with Tim Loughton and justice minister Jonathan Djanogly that was asked to come up with proposals within two months on how the law should be changed regarding how to amend the Children Act of 1989. According to The Guardian of 3 February 2012, that working group is aimed to include in the new Children Act one "presumption of shared parenting" for children's fathers and mothers after cases of divorce or spousal break-up.

On 4 September 2012, she was sacked from her post, as part of a broad government reshuffle, and returned to the backbenches.[31]

Post-ministerial activities[edit]

After leaving Government, Teather gave an interview to The Observer newspaper, in which she called the Benefit Cap "immoral and divisive".[31] She then voted against the coalition for the first time, on a deferred division on the final regulations needed to put the Benefit Cap in place.[32] In late 2012, Teather chaired a Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people, which was supported by The Children's Society.[33]

In February 2013, Teather voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading.[34] She later expressed regret for this vote, writing that she has since "thanked God that I was then in an irrelevant minority".[35]

On 7 September 2013, Teather released a statement through her website to announce she would not contest the 2015 general election, saying her decision was "to do with some aspects of government policy", adding that she "no longer feels that Nick Clegg's party fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration".[5][36]

On 3 March 2015, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration published a report on the use of immigration detention. The inquiry panel, chaired by Sarah Teather, found that "the UK uses detention disproportionately and inappropriately" and recommended that a time limit of 28 days be introduced as the maximum length of time an individual can be held in an immigration removal centre.[37]

Later career[edit]

Teather stood down as the MP for Brent Central at the 2015 general election[38] and joined the International Advocacy team of the Jesuit Refugee Service in June 2015. As an advocacy advisor, she visited JRS projects all over the world, including: Lebanon, South Sudan, Uganda, North Macedonia and the southern coast of Italy where thousands of migrants were attempting dangerous overseas crossings to mainland Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.[39] On 3 December 2015, it was announced that Teather had been appointed as the country director of JRS UK.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Teather is Catholic.[41] At 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m), she has been the shortest woman member of Parliament in British history.[42][43]

See also[edit]


  2. ^ a b "Sarah Teather". BBC News. Archived from the original on 17 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Sarah Teather MP, Brent Central". Archived from the original on 19 April 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  4. ^ "All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Sarah Teather to stand down as Lib Dem MP at 2015 election". BBC News. 19 September 2003. Archived from the original on 9 September 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Who is Sarah Teather?". The Guardian. London. Press Association. 19 September 2003. Archived from the original on 12 September 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Sarah Teather – MP for Brent East". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  8. ^ "Islington Borough Council 2002 Election Results and Turnout Statistics" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  9. ^ Brent East By-election 2003
  10. ^ Helm, Toby (7 September 2013). "Sarah Teather: 'It's time to end this chapter'". The Observer. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Newest MP lambasts tuition and top-up fees in maiden speech". Brent Liberal Democrats. 27 November 2003. Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Guardian: Politics: Election 2005, Brent East". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  13. ^ "MPs' Expenses: the saints". The Daily Telegraph. London. 18 May 2009. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  14. ^ Sarah Teather (2 October 2006). "Sarah Teather: An emotional visit to the Manor". Guardian blog. London. Archived from the original on 19 January 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Brent Central Lib Dems: Brent is my home, says Sarah". Brent Liberal Democrats. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  16. ^ "Brent Central election results". BBC. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  17. ^ "Brent Central: The 2010 general election", The Guardian
  18. ^ Cathcart, Brian (13 December 2007). "People of 2007". New Statesman. London. Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  19. ^ Verkalk, Robert (31 May 2008). "Guantanamo Briton will face US military court". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  20. ^ a b "Sarah Teather: Electoral history and profile". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  21. ^ Hencke, David; Glover, Julian (7 January 2006). "Kennedy's days numbered as party erupts in open revolt". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 24 March 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  22. ^ Tempest, Matthew (9 January 2006). "Ashdown backs Campbell for leadership". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  23. ^ Russell, Ben (9 January 2006). "Leadership contenders square up to battle over Lib Dems' top job". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  24. ^ "Teather promoted to education job". BBC News. 8 March 2006. Archived from the original on 26 October 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  25. ^ "Gove saved schools in deputy's back yard", The Sunday Times (London), 12 September 2010, p. 13.
  26. ^ "Sarah Teather admits she is "extremely worried" by the £26,000 benefits cap | Research | PoliticsHome". Archived from the original on 6 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  27. ^ "Teather reveals concerns over benefits cap". Children & Young People Now. Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  28. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates". UK Parliament. 1 February 2012. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  29. ^ "David Cameron Defends Sarah Teather After Being Asked Why She Was Still A Minister". HuffPost. 8 February 2012. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  30. ^ "Minister and audience clash over EMA". BBC News. 1 April 2011.
  31. ^ a b Helm, Toby (17 November 2012). "Benefit cap is immoral and divisive, says top Liberal Democrat". The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  32. ^ Behr, Rafael (22 November 2012). "A very modest Lib Dem rebellion on the benefits cap". New Statesman. London. Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  33. ^ "Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people". The Children's Society. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 20 June 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  34. ^ Mason, Rowena (9 February 2013). "Sarah Teather votes against gay marriage despite website declaring 'pride' in policy". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 February 2013.
  35. ^ "Former London MP says sorry for 'getting it so wrong' on same sex marriage". ITV News. 6 July 2021.
  36. ^ Helm, Toby (7 September 2013). "Top Lib Dem Sarah Teather to step down in despair at Nick Clegg's policies". The Observer. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention". Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  38. ^ Prince, Rosa (13 February 2015). "Why I'm standing down from Parliament: Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  39. ^ "Sarah Teather MP to join Jesuit Refugee Service". Catholic Herald. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  40. ^ "Introducing JRS UK's New Director". Jesuit Refugee Service UK. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  41. ^ "Sarah Teather's statement: why I voted against gay marriage". Catholic Voices Comment. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  42. ^ "Profile - Sarah Teather - Perfectly informed". Public Finance (published 16 September 2005). 15 September 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  43. ^ "After Blair's Babes, now it's Campbell's Crackers". Evening Standard. 16 September 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2022.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Brent East
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Brent Central
Succeeded by
Preceded by Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded byas Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families Minister of State for Children and Families
Succeeded byas Undersecretary of State
for Education and Childcare