Wera Hobhouse

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Wera Hobhouse

Official portrait of Wera Hobhouse crop 2.jpg
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change
Assumed office
7 February 2019
LeaderVince Cable
Preceded byThe Baroness Featherstone
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government
In office
16 June 2017 – 7 February 2019
Serving with The Lord Shipley
LeaderTim Farron
Vince Cable
Preceded byThe Baroness Pinnock
Succeeded byTim Farron
Member of Parliament
for Bath
Assumed office
9 June 2017
Preceded byBen Howlett
Majority5,694 (11.5%)
Personal details
Wera Benedicta von Reden

(1960-02-08) 8 February 1960 (age 59)
Hanover, Lower Saxony, West Germany
  • British
Political party
William Hobhouse (m. 1989)
Alma materUniversity of Münster

Wera Benedicta Hobhouse (née von Reden; born 8 February 1960)[1][2][3] is a British Liberal Democrat politician. She is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bath,[4] having been elected at the 2017 general election by a majority of 5,694.[5]

Early life and career[edit]

Hobhouse was born in Hanover, Germany.[3] She studied History and Fine Art at the University of Münster, and afterwards studied Art for two years at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Hobhouse then moved back to Germany, completing a master's degree in History and Fine Art in Berlin.[6] She married William Hobhouse in 1989 and moved to England the following year. They first lived in Liverpool, where Wera Hobhouse opened an art gallery on Falkner Street.[6] They moved to Rochdale in 1999.[7] Prior to her political career, she was a teacher, radio journalist and artist.[6][8][9][10]

Hobhouse was first elected in 2004 as a Conservative councillor for the ward of Norden on Rochdale Council, Greater Manchester. At the same election, her husband was elected as a Conservative councillor for the ward of Bamford, also in the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale.[6]

Hobhouse's political career in Rochdale was defined by the Spodden Valley asbestos controversy; this was the proposed development of 650 homes on an asbestos-contaminated site.[11] Hobhouse and her husband opposed the proposals, leading them to switch to the Liberal Democrats in 2005. They were criticised at the time for not triggering by-elections to seek fresh mandates as Liberal Democrat councillors.[12][13] The development was finally blocked seven years later in 2011.[14]

Hobhouse was reelected in 2006 and 2010 for the Liberal Democrats in Norden.[15][16] The Liberal Democrats assumed majority control of Rochdale Council in 2007; Hobhouse served as the Cabinet Member for the Environment between 2006 and 2009 and chaired the Health Scrutiny committee from 2009 to 2010.

After the Liberal Democrats lost majority control of the council in 2010, and following disastrous local election results, Hobhouse was elected as the leader of the much-reduced Liberal Democrat group on Rochdale Council in May 2011.[17] In July 2011, Hobhouse was involved in a heated exchange at a full council meeting concerning arts funding, for which she later apologised.[18]

In 2014, Hobhouse retired as a councillor for Norden and moved to Bath.[6] Hobhouse unsuccessfully contested the constituencies of Heywood and Middleton in 2010 and North East Somerset in 2015.[19][20] She stood for election to the Bath and North East Somerset Council for the Peasedown ward in the 2015 local election.[21]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Shortly before the 2017 general election, Hobhouse was selected to stand for parliament in the former Liberal Democrat seat of Bath when the prospective candidate stood down. She was one of 184 women candidates put forward by the Liberal Democrats.[22] Hobhouse, who supported Remain and had previously co-founded Bath for Europe,[6] stood on a pro-European platform which also emphasised housing, education, congestion and pollution concerns, as well as opposition to the incumbent Conservative MP Ben Howlett's plans to link the A46 and A36 roads together. Her party emphasised the need for Labour supporters to vote tactically for Hobhouse to defeat the Conservatives.[8][23] Hobhouse gained the seat with a majority of 5,694 votes and a 17.6% increase in the Liberal Democrat vote share – the second-highest vote share increase for the party nationally – helped by a 9.7% fall in the Green Party vote.[24][25]

Following her election, Hobhouse was appointed as the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for housing, communities and local government.[26][27] She made her maiden speech on 29 June 2017,[28] and sits on the Committee on Exiting the European Union.[27]

On 6 March 2018, Hobhouse presented a Private Members' Bill to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003; her bill would outlaw acts of voyeurism, especially upskirting, which are not currently explicitly covered by UK law.[29][30] Justice Secretary David Gauke signalled that the government would support Hobhouse's bill,[31] which was later supported by the Prime Minister, Theresa May.[32] Hobhouse's bill was not debated at its presentation in the House of Commons.[33] At its second reading in the Commons on 15 June 2018, Conservative MP Christopher Chope objected to Hobhouse's bill, preventing its passage through the Commons.[34] Chope's actions drew immediate criticism from fellow MPs.[35][36] May also expressed her disappointment at the objection.[35] Chope said that his reason for blocking the bill's passage was in objection to parliamentary procedure rather than to the bill itself: he stated that he would "wholeheartedly" support a government bill that outlawed upskirting.[37] Following his objection, the government reaffirmed its commitment to introduce legislation to outlaw upskirting.[38] A government bill to outlaw upskirting was introduced to the House of Commons on 21 June 2018;[39][40] and passed its second reading on 3 July 2018 to become the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019.[40]

In an interview with HuffPost UK published in May 2018, Hobhouse warned against the "toxic" immigration debate in the UK. She acknowledged her party's limited resources following its electoral collapse at the 2015 general election, and affirmed that she was happy with Vince Cable as the party's leader. She urged the party to do more to increase its diversity.[26][41]

In July 2018, Hobhouse was criticised for claiming £4,800 in parliamentary expenses for a heavy duty colour printer. Defending her actions, Hobhouse said that she had saved the taxpayer £40,000 by taking over the lease from Bath's previous MP and that she required the printer for her constituency letters.[42][43] In October 2018, Hobhouse's constituency office announced that it had completed 6,000 pieces of casework.[44]

Hobhouse is a member of the governing council of the Electoral Reform Society.[45] She supports proportional representation for UK elections and claims that the coalition government's failure to secure electoral reform was its "biggest disappointment".[10]

Hobhouse supports drug testing at festivals,[46] rehabilitation-orientated prison reforms,[47] a final vote on the Brexit deal,[48][49][50] abortion reform in Northern Ireland,[51] legalising cannabis,[52] increasing the number of refugees welcomed into the UK,[53] a ban on letting fees[54] and reducing the number of short prison sentences to ease prison overcrowding.[55] She opposes fracking.[56] Hobhouse supported a campaign to improve the treatment of eating disorders[57][58] and led a parliamentary debate on destigmatising them.[59] In local politics, she objected to plans to build a new hotel in Bath, stating that the city's tourism is turning it into "Disneyland on Avon",[60] and launched a petition to fund a large police station for the city.[61]

Personal life[edit]

Wera Hobhouse has been married to William Hobhouse since 1989.[6] They both cite the fall of the Berlin Wall as a pivotal moment in their lives, which they witnessed when they lived in Germany.[10][62] They have four grown-up children, two sons and two daughters.[3][8] She naturalised as a British citizen in 2007.[26][63] William and Wera Hobhouse own a Rochdale and Germany based company, Compotex, that provides bonding, priming and adhesion solutions to the textile and rubber industries.[64][65]

Wera Hobhouse is a Christian.[26] Although her mother and grandmother identified as Christians, her great-grandfather was Jewish; this meant that her family were persecuted under the Nuremberg Laws.[9] Hobhouse is fluent in English, German and French.[23] She cites Barack Obama and William Wilberforce as her political idols.[66]


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  27. ^ a b "Wera Hobhouse MP, Bath - TheyWorkForYou". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  28. ^ "Economy and Jobs - Hansard Online - 29 June 2017". hansard.parliament.uk. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  29. ^ "Voyeurism (Offences) Bill" (PDF). House of Commons. 6 March 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  30. ^ "Liberal Democrat MP tables new law to make 'upskirting' a criminal offence". The Independent. 8 March 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  31. ^ "New law could be made against upskirting in the UK". The Telegraph. 24 April 2018. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  32. ^ "Prime Minister backs Wera Hobhouse MP's calls to make upskirting an offence". Liberal Democrats - Wera Hobhouse MP. 3 May 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  33. ^ "Voyeurism (Offences) Bill 2017-19 — UK Parliament". UK Parliament Services. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  34. ^ "New upskirting law blocked by Tory MP". BBC News. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  35. ^ a b Allegretti, Aubrey (16 June 2018). "Theresa May 'disappointed' as Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope blocks upskirting bill". Sky News. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  36. ^ "Revealed: Conservative MPs turn on Christopher Chope on Tory WhatsApp | Coffee House". The Spectator Coffee House. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  37. ^ Martin, Andy (17 June 2018). "Christopher Chope exclusive: I DO support upskirting ban. I've been scapegoated". Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  38. ^ Crerar, Pippa (18 June 2018). "Upskirting: government confirms plan to introduce ban". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  39. ^ Bradley, Sorcha (21 June 2018). "Campaigners celebrate as government tables bill to tackle upskirting". Sky News. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  40. ^ a b "Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill" (PDF). publications.parliament.uk. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  41. ^ Bartlett, Nicola (1 May 2018). "German-born MP says UK immigration debate has parallels with Nazi Germany". mirror. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  42. ^ Tominey, Camilla (22 July 2018). "I write a lot of letters, insists the MP with a £5,000 printer". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  43. ^ Petherick, Sam (18 July 2018). "Bath MP claims nearly £5k for printer". somersetlive. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  44. ^ "Bath MP Wera Hobhouse thanks team after completion of 6000 cases". Bath Echo. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  45. ^ "Our council". Electoral Reform Society. Archived from the original on 9 December 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  46. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (13 June 2018). "Wera Supports Drug Testing at Festivals". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  47. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (13 June 2018). "The Answer to Overcrowding in Prisons, Is Not More Prisons". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  48. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (12 June 2018). "Speech: The People Must Finish What The People Have Started". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  49. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (26 January 2018). "Read: Wera's Letter to David Davis". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
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  51. ^ Al-Othman, Hannah (7 June 2018). "These MPs Say They'll Force The Government To Reform Northern Irish Abortion Law". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  52. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (13 March 2018). "Wera: Allow patients access to medical cannabis". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  53. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (24 February 2018). "Speech: Refugees - Let Them In". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  54. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (15 September 2017). "Wera supports Ban on Letting Fees". Wera Hobhouse MP. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  55. ^ Hobhouse, Wera (4 April 2019). "Criminal neglect of our prisons | Public Finance". www.publicfinance.co.uk. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
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External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ben Howlett
Member of Parliament for Bath