Tom Harris (British politician)

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Tom Harris
Tomharris 2.jpg
Shadow Minister for the Environment
In office
15 May 2012 – 8 May 2015
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Fiona O'Donnell
Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Transport
In office
7 September 2006 – 4 October 2008
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded by Jim Fitzpatrick
Succeeded by Paul Clark
Member of Parliament
for Glasgow South
Glasgow Cathcart (2001-2005)
In office
7 June 2001 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by John Maxton
Succeeded by Stewart McDonald
Majority 12,658 (31.6%)
Personal details
Born Thomas Harris
(1964-02-20) 20 February 1964 (age 51)
Ayrshire, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Carolyn Moffat
Alma mater Napier University

Thomas Harris (born 20 February 1964) is a former Scottish Labour Party politician and a former journalist and press officer. He stood as a candidate for the 2011 Scottish Labour Party leadership election,[1] but effectively admitted defeat on 10 December a week before the result was declared.[2]

Harris was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow Cathcart from 2001 to 2005, and for Glasgow South constituency from 2005 to 2015. He first entered government when he was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport in September 2006 by PM Tony Blair. When Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in June 2007 Harris kept his junior ministerial role, but in an October 2008 reshuffle he was sacked and returned to the backbenches.[3] On 9 June 2009 he was the first Scottish Labour MP to call for Gordon Brown to stand down as prime minister.[4] In 2012 he returned to frontbench politics as shadow environment minister.

Early life and career[edit]

Tom Harris was born in Ayrshire and raised in Beith, Scotland. He was educated at the Garnock Academy[5] in Kilbirnie and Napier College, Edinburgh where he was awarded an HND in Journalism in 1986. He worked as a trainee newspaper journalist with the East Kilbride News in 1986 before joining the Paisley Daily Express in 1988.

He was appointed as a press officer with the Scottish Labour Party in 1990, moving to the same position with Strathclyde Regional Council in 1992. He was briefly the senior media officer with the City of Glasgow Council in 1996 before joining East Ayrshire Council later in the same year as a public relations manager. In 1998 he became the chief of public relations at the Strathclyde Passenger Executive, where he remained until his election to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Harris joined the Labour Party in 1984. He was active in the Edinburgh South Constituency Labour Party and was elected as the chairman of the Glasgow Cathcart Constituency Labour Party for two years in 1998. During his time at this post, he tried to stop the closure of the ABC Muirend/Toledo cinema, but was unsuccessful.

Parliamentary career[edit]

Harris was elected to the House of Commons at the 2001 General Election for the Glasgow seat of Cathcart following the retirement of the Labour MP John Maxton. He held the seat with a majority of 10,816 and made his maiden speech on 27 June 2001.[6] His seat was abolished following the creation of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood and the subsequent reduction of Scottish seats at Westminster. He represented the new seat of Glasgow South from the 2005 General Election until losing in 2015.

He served on the Science and Technology Select Committee for two years from 2001, and was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State for Northern Ireland John Spellar in 2003, and from 2005 was PPS to the Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt. On 7 September 2006 he replaced Derek Twigg as Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Transport. However in October 2008 Harris announced on his blog that the Prime Minister had telephoned him to inform him that he would be returning to the back benches.[7]

He is a committed trade unionist and was a member of the National Union of Journalists from 1984 until he joined UNISON in 1997, and he is now a member of Unite the Union. He introduced a bill in 2005 for tougher sentences for e-criminals.[8] Also in 2005 he was involved in an argument over the funding of a housing charity which had called for direct action following the eviction and deportation to Albania of an Kosovan family seeking asylum from a flat in Drumchapel.[9] He was a keen supporter of John Smith and is reported to have been more of a Blairite than a Brownite. He writes a popular blog,[10] which has won a number of awards. In the 2009 Top Political Blog Awards run by Total Politics magazine, it was voted top MP's blog, top Scottish blog and top left-of-centre blog, and was ranked number 8 overall.[11] He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.

On 6 December 2010 he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme to claim that corporate tax avoidance activities by the likes of Vodafone and Topshop were the fault of the coalition government.[12] In 2011 he actively campaigned against the Alternative Vote in the referendum that year.[13]

On 16 January 2012 Harris was forced to stand down from his role as Internet Adviser following adverse media reaction of his posting of a version of the popular "Downfall" parodies on YouTube ridiculing First Minister Alex Salmond.[14]

On 3 August 2013, having been vocal about uncapped EU migration to the UK, he made controversial statements via online media about Daniel Pelka's parents, immigrants from Poland convicted of the abuse and murder of their child, suggesting they be tortured. In statements made on Twitter, Harris wrote: "That we have not killed them horribly says a great deal in our favour."[15] He also stated that he was "certainly in favour of disinfecting our country by deporting them at the end of their sentence."[16]

In 2015 Harris lost his seat to Stewart McDonald of the SNP.

Scottish Labour Party leadership bid[edit]

In August 2011 he expressed an interest, and in September 2011 confirmed on Twitter he was standing in the election to be the next leader of the Scottish Labour Party, after the publication of the Murphy and Boyack review.[17] He described the Scottish Labour Party as having had "no new ideas in 12 years [of devolution]",[18] and that it must become a "party of aspiration"[19] or it risked becoming irrelevant in the next few years.[20]

He considered standing in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but announced via his podcast [21] in May 2012 that he had given up this ambition and was committed to stand in his Glasgow South constituency in the next UK general election.[22]

On 10 December 2011 Harris effectively admitted defeat in the leadership race, leaving the field to the last two contenders, Johann Lamont and Ken Macintosh. Both Lamont and Macintosh paid tribute to Tom Harris' contribution to the leadership contest. Tom Harris was the only MP to enter the race and said Labour had become "too closely associated with the public sector", rather than being "a party of business". He also said the "Scottish Labour party was really in deep trouble and that we need to think outside the box. There is no indication that the party is prepared to do that yet and I don't know why".[2]

Personal life[edit]

Harris has been married to Carolyn Moffat since 1998; the couple have two sons. He has another son from an earlier marriage which was dissolved in 1996. He is a Christian,[23] and enjoys astronomy and badminton.


  1. ^ "Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls Tom Harris, Johann Lamont & Ken Macintosh tells us how they plan to get Labour back into power". The Daily Record. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  2. ^ a b "Labour contest for leader now ‘two-horse race’ - UK". 2011-12-11. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Tom Harris". 2005-05-05. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  4. ^ "UK | Scotland | Scots MP calls for PM to resign". BBC News. 2009-06-09. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2001-06-27). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 27 Jun 2001 (pt 17)". Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  7. ^ [1] Archived 1 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "UK | UK Politics | Penalty plea on cyber criminals". BBC News. 2005-07-12. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  9. ^ "UK | Scotland | Exchange over asylum row tactics". BBC News. 2005-11-27. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ [2] Archived 29 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Today - Tax avoidance 'injustice highlighted'". BBC News. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Harris Exposes Av Myths". 2011-03-24. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  14. ^ "BBC News - MP Tom Harris quits media post over Hitler joke video". 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Custom byline text:  (2011-08-23). "Much at stake for Labour’s next leader at Holyrood". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  18. ^ KATE DEVLIN (2011-09-24). "Miliband kicks off Labour fightback amid polls gloom". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  19. ^ Peterkin, Tom (2011-10-29). "Tom Harris warns Scottish Labour could become an ‘irrelevance’ - Politics". Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  20. ^ Tom Gordon (2011-09-24). "We’re rubbish ... but all the other parties are even worse". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Johnson, Simon (2011-11-04). "Tom Harris launches Scottish Labour leadership campaign". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  23. ^ [3][dead link]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Maxton
Member of Parliament for Glasgow Cathcart
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Glasgow South
Succeeded by
Stewart McDonald
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Fitzpatrick
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport
Succeeded by
Paul Clark