LondonlovesBusiness.com at the Lib Dem conference
Simon Hughes: MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (formerly North Southwark and Bermondsey)
First elected in 1983
“Profits must no longer go to the few at the top,” declared the deputy Lib Dem leader, Simon Hughes, in a recent post-riots article penned for The Guardian.
“All employers should be required to consider how they can increase employment and training, by themselves or with others.”
Hughes’ rather lofty statements come as little surprise considering his lack of business experience. Formerly a barrister before turning to youth work, he was elected as the youngest opposition MP in 1983 following a Bermondsey by-election.
Outspoken and high profile, Hughes has been at the centre of various scandals, most recently as an alleged victim of the NOTW phone hacking saga, and before that for his anti-gay election campaign which was followed by his admitting being bi-sexual in 2006.
In 2004 he unsuccessfully ran in the London mayoral election. Still, he’s popular with his constituents at least, and was re-elected in 2010 with more votes than ever before.
Sarah Teather: MP for Brent Central (formerly Brent East)
First elected in 2003
Children’s minister and former deputy Lib Dem leader Sarah Teather holds the cursed accolade of having been the youngest MP in Britain when elected – the Baby of the House.
Her pre-parliament experience is limited to the public and charity sectors, where she advised the government on scientific aspects of public policy as well as being a social policy analyst for Macmillan Cancer Relief.
Neither a Eurosceptic nor Europhile, Teather voted moderately for greater EU integration in 2006. She voted strongly for VAT to rise to 17.5 per cent and then up to 20 per cent in earlier this year.
She came under fire last year when two schools in her constituency retained the Building for Schools benefits allocated to them although the scheme had been axed. The Sunday Times accused her and Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, of having colluded – she was accused of exploiting her position as schools minister.
Tom Brake: MP for Carshalton and Wallington
First elected in 1997
Tom Brake was recently appointed a privy councillor to HRH, a far cry from his days as a computer software consultant. The techy-turned-MP had a long career in local government, serving as a councillor for the Sutton and Hackney boroughs, before finally being elected in 1997.
By 2003 he made it onto the Liberal Democrat frontbench team – the party’s shadow cabinet – as the spokesperson for international development.
His popularity has grown considerably among his constituents. His first attempt at running for election saw him lose out to Tory MP Nigel Forman by circa 10,000 votes. After ousting Forman in 1997 he has since seen his majority grown steadily.
He is unlikely to command much respect from students, however, after controversially voting for increased tuition fees despite the party’s to pledge to vote against a proposed increase.
Oh, and he was raised in France.
Paul Burstow: MP for Sutton and Cheam
First elected in 2002
Currently the minister of state for the Department of Health, Burstow gained a business degree at the South Bank Polytechnic before flirting briefly with the private sector as a retail assistant. His short stints at Allied Shoe Repairs and Kall Kwik Printers led him, somehow, to the Hounslow Council where he was employed as a researcher.
Since then his career as rocketed, culminating in his recent promotion to health minister. His progress hasn’t gone unnoticed either, with the media celebrating his commitment to social care issues, particularly those affecting the elderly.
But with the recent furore around the care provider Southern Cross and the NHS Bill about to enter the House of Lords, the pressure is on Burstow to deliver more.
Vince Cable: MP for Twickenham
First elected in 1997
A bit like Marmite, it’s hard to remain indifferent about Cable. Made business secretary in 2010, he has since been called upon to take a harder line in favour of businesses, and has been criticised for bank bashing.
Indeed, Cable fans often claim that the economist predicted the financial meltdown long before the major cracks began to appear. Yet the former Lib Dem treasury spokesperson didn’t do as well as expected in the televised pre-election speeches.
Cable read economics at Cambridge, followed by a PhD at Glasgow. The last 40 years have seen him embark on a diverse career, albeit within finance and mainly in the public sector. Among his many roles working in government he’s held positions, among others, as treasury finance officer for the Kenyan Government, secretary in the diplomatic service in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and deputy director of the Overseas Development Institute.
His spell in the private sector, working for Shell International, was effective: he was promoted to Shell’s chief economist after five years working there.
Edward Davey: MP for Kingston and Surbiton
First elected in 1997
Just up the road from Cable lives Davey, another economics graduate. Recently appointed Lib Dem shadow foreign secretary. Davey began working in politics soon after university when he landed the job as economics researcher for the Lib Dems.
Working under Paddy Ashdown and promoted to a more senior role, he became involved in the penny on income tax policy and making the Bank of England independent.
He did however take a two-year gap from Whitehall to go to work for Omega Partners, where he specialised in postal services. Describing that time, on his website he says: “With Omega Partners, I visited 28 countries and worked on projects for Post Offices in countries such as Belgium, South Africa, Sweden and Taiwan. My work ranged from strategic market analysis to business forecasting.” It was perhaps this stint that helped him get appointed recently to parliamentary under-secretary at BIS.
He hit headlines this week as it was revealed that his constituency is one of those put forward for boundaries by the Boundary Commission – meaning he could be fighting Tory MP Zack Goldmsith in the next general election. Analysts have predicted that, were current voting patterns not to change, he would win with a majority of about 5,000.
Lynne Featherstone: MP for Hornsey & Wood Green
First elected in 2005
Promoted to equalities minister in the coalition government, Featherstone is an ex-business owner and used to run her own London design company before becoming a strategic design consultant for a transport consultancy.
She was also director of an electoral business with 10 branches. She is better known, however, for her outspoken comments, that criticised neighbouring Haringey council following the murders of Victoria Climbié and Baby P.
TheTelegraph listed her as a “saint” during the expenses scandal, but she is perhaps better remembered as the MP who allegedly ordered £22,000 worth of stationery for one month. Featherstone blamed her staff for the excessive order and instructed the return of the surplus material soon after.