Tom Harris (British politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tom Harris
Tomharris 2.jpg
Shadow Minister for the Environment
In office
15 May 2012 – 12 June 2013
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byFiona O'Donnell
Succeeded byBarry Gardiner
Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Transport
In office
7 September 2006 – 4 October 2008
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded byJim Fitzpatrick
Succeeded byPaul Clark
Member of Parliament
for Glasgow South
Glasgow Cathcart (2001–2005)
In office
7 June 2001 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byJohn Maxton
Succeeded byStewart McDonald
Majority12,658 (31.6%)
Personal details
Thomas Harris

(1964-02-20) 20 February 1964 (age 56)
Ayrshire, Scotland
Political partyIndependent (since 2018)
Other political
Labour (1984–2018)
Spouse(s)Carolyn Moffat
Alma materNapier University
OccupationFormer politician, journalist, and press officer

Thomas Harris (born 20 February 1964) is a journalist and former Scottish Labour Party politician. He was a candidate in the 2011 Scottish Labour Party leadership election,[1] but effectively admitted defeat on 10 December a week before the result was declared.[2] Harris is a member of the advisory board of the Reform Scotland think tank and maintains a Blairite perspective on UK politics.[3][4]

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 the October 2008 reshuffle, he was sacked and returned to the backbenches.[5]

On 9 June 2009, he was the first Scottish Labour MP to call for Gordon Brown to stand down as prime minister.[6] In 2012, he returned to Ed Miliband's frontbench as shadow environment minister but left in June 2013 to spend more time with his family, being succeeded by Barry Gardiner.[7][8]

Early life and career[edit]

Tom Harris was born in Ayrshire and raised in Beith, Scotland. He was educated at the Garnock Academy[9] 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.[10] 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 in 2003 as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, John Spellar. From 2005, he 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.[11]

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 has since a member of Unite the Union. He introduced a bill in 2005 for tougher sentences for e-criminals.[12] 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 a Kosovan family seeking asylum from a flat in Drumchapel.[13] 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,[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] In 2011, he actively campaigned against the Alternative Vote in the referendum that year.[17]

Harris was forced to stand down from his role as Internet Adviser on 16 January 2012, following adverse media reaction to his posting of a Downfall parody on YouTube ridiculing First Minister Alex Salmond.[18]

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

Scottish Labour Party leadership bid[edit]

In August 2011 Harris 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.[19] He described the Scottish Labour Party as having had "no new ideas in 12 years [of devolution]",[20] and that it must become a "party of aspiration"[21] or it risked becoming irrelevant in the next few years.[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. 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]

He considered standing in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but announced via his podcast [23] in May 2012 that he had given up this ambition and was committed to stand in his Glasgow South constituency at the United Kingdom general election of 2015.[24]

Post-MP career[edit]

Since losing his seat, Harris has set up a public affairs company called Third Avenue and, as of 2019, works for the Edinburgh-based media and political relations consultancy Message Matters.[25][26] He replaced Dan Hodges as a commentator for The Daily Telegraph.[citation needed]

In March 2016, he became the new director of the Scottish branch of Vote Leave, the campaign for the UK to leave the EU.[27] He has continued to speak out in favour of Brexit in his newspaper columns since 2016.[28]

In August 2018, Harris announced his resignation from the Labour Party in an op-ed for The Daily Telegraph, claiming that the hard-left was in complete control of the party and it was impossible for moderates to re-take control.[29][30] In November 2019, he announced he would be voting for the Conservative Party in the 2019 general election.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Harris married Carolyn Moffat in 1998; the couple have two sons. He has another son from an earlier marriage which was dissolved in 1996. He is a Christian[32] and enjoys astronomy and badminton. He is a fan of Doctor Who and friend of its former showrunner Steven Moffat.[33][34] Harris contributed to Behind The Sofa, the collection of celebrity Doctor Who fan memories published by Gollancz in 2013.[35] He also claims to have owned every issue of Doctor Who Magazine.[36] He firmly opposed a female actor playing the Doctor.[37]


  1. ^ "Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls Tom Harris, Johann Lamont & Ken Macintosh tell us how they plan to get Labour back into power". Daily Record. Glasgow. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Labour contest for leader now 'two-horse race'". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Tom Harris". The Telegraph.
  4. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Tom Harris". 5 May 2005. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Scots MP calls for PM to resign". BBC News. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  7. ^ "MP Tom Harris quits frontbench for family". The Independent. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Voting record - Barry Gardiner MP, Brent North". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  9. ^ Archived 20 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (27 June 2001). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 27 Jun 2001 (pt 17)". Retrieved 5 February 2012.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ [1] Archived 1 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Penalty plea on cyber criminals". BBC News. 12 July 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  13. ^ "Exchange over asylum row tactics". BBC News. 27 November 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  14. ^ "Tom Harris – Blogger, Writer & Internet Tinkerer".
  15. ^ "Latest Blog Posts". Archived from the original on 29 March 2010.
  16. ^ "Today – Tax avoidance 'injustice highlighted'". BBC News. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  17. ^ "Harris Exposes Av Myths". 24 March 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  18. ^ "MP Tom Harris quits media post over Hitler joke video". BBC News. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  19. ^ Herald View (23 August 2011). "Much at stake for Labour's next leader at Holyrood". Herald Scotland. Glasgow. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  20. ^ Devlin, Kate (24 September 2011). "Miliband kicks off Labour fightback amid polls gloom". Herald Scotland. Glasgow. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  21. ^ Peterkin, Tom (29 October 2011). "Tom Harris warns Scottish Labour could become an 'irrelevance'". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  22. ^ Gordon, Tom (24 September 2011). "We're rubbish ... but all the other parties are even worse". Herald Scotland. Glasgow. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  23. ^[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Johnson, Simon (4 November 2011). "Tom Harris launches Scottish Labour leadership campaign". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  25. ^ "About". Third Avenue. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Our People". Message Matters. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  27. ^ "EU referendum: Tom Harris to head Scottish Vote Leave campaign". BBC News. 18 March 2016.
  28. ^ Harris, Tom (28 August 2019). "This isn't a 'constitutional outrage' – whingeing Remainers need to grow up" – via
  29. ^ Harris, Tom (7 August 2018). "I have resigned from Labour because the war is over and the moderates have lost". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  30. ^ "Former Scots minister Tom Harris quits Labour after 34 years". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  31. ^ Harris, Tom (13 November 2019). "I used to live, eat and breathe the Labour Party. Now I'm voting for Boris Johnson" – via
  32. ^ Harris, Tom. "Conscience and Judgement". Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  33. ^ "Who do we think we are?". Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  34. ^ "Blog meme – because Dale told me to". 26:11. 24 August 2008. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  35. ^ Various (31 October 2013). Berry, Steve (ed.). Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who. Gollancz. ISBN 9780575129450.
  36. ^ "Tom Harris on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 22 June 2016.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ Harris, Tom (16 February 2017). "Doctor Who provides plenty of female role models – so keep your hands off the Doctor's genitalia". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 September 2018.

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