The Conservative Commons intake of 2015

Introduction – a post-government intake

CAMERON'S CHILDREN bigTalented intakes of new Conservative MPs tend to enter the Commons after the Party has been in opposition – whether lengthily or briefly.

The 1950 general election brought Edward Heath, Ian Macleod, Reggie Maudling and Enoch Powell into the House.  1979 saw John Major, the two Pattens (Chris and John) and William Waldegrave arrive.  Four years ago, Robert HalfonSajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Jesse Norman, Dominic Raab and Elizabeth Truss came in, along with many others.

So what does the coming tranche of new Tory MPs – which follows a term by the Party not in opposition but government – look like?  How does it compare with those post-opposition intakes?

There are two current narratives about the next Conservative Parliamentary generation.

The first is that it will consist of more Eton-and-Bullingdon graduates with a background as special advisers.  This might be called the Labour narrative.

The second is that it will be made up of Notting Hill-dwelling, privately educated Cameroon loyalists with a background as special advisers.  This could be called the UKIP narrative.

The reality is more complex and interesting.  Today, ConservativeHome publishes its analysis of the men and women most likely to be Conservative MPs after the dust clears in May.

We have used a simple test to select our sample.  Was the seat already held by the Party at the time of the 2010 election?  If it was, we believe that it probably will be in 2015 – and have thus included its candidate in our study.  In short, these are the “safe” seats.

And we have gone for simplicity in order to establish some central facts: family, education, occupation, local government experience, national experience, and a snapshot of anything else that seems to us especially noteworthy.

There are 30 of these “safe seat” candidates – details below.  Ten main points have emerged.

The Conservatives of 2015 – Ten points to watch

  • A novice-packed intake.

Almost half of the 30 candidates we surveyed have not fought a constituency before – 14 in all: Heidi Allen, Victoria Atkins, Victoria Borwick, Jo Churchill, Oliver Dowden, Lucy Frazer, Kevin Hollinrake, Ranil Jayawardena, David Mackintosh, Alan Mak, Victoria Prentis, Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat and Matt Warman.

By recent standards, this is revolutionary.  The traditional pattern was for candidates to be “blooded” in the safe seats of other parties, before finding selection in a Tory heartland constituency.  Even in 2010, “most of the newcomers had fought seats before“.

Essentially, the pace of politics is speeding up.  To have a background of contesting a seat – to have been tested under fire, so to speak – was once seen as an advantage.  Now it is as likely not to be so.

Having a record of office in the voluntary Party, too, is not necessarily required.  Frazer is a former Deputy Chairman of Hampstead Conservatives.  Nus Ghani has held the same post elsewhere. Huw Merriman, Wendy Morton and Matt Warman are former Association Chairmen.  But some of the intake, such as Sunak and Tugendhat, come new to Party politics.

  • A post-expenses scandal generation.

“Heidi [Allen] is not a career politician”…”My life’s story is not one of a traditional politician” (Ghani)…”I am not a career politician” (Frazer).

You get the picture.  The after-shock of the expenses earthquake rumbles on.  It is playing a part in the increasing willingness of Associations to select untried candidates: voters are becoming nervous of the smell of the Westminster Village.

And it is this newness to Parliamentary politics, too, that those candidates want to project. Both they and others are making as much of their interests and activities as possible.  Cartlidge is a volunteer ‘dragon’ to the homelessness charity St Mungos’ Broadway.  Mak served until recently as President of Magic Breakfast.  Philip set up a charity “to help young people reach their potential”.  Morton is a social action veteran. Conservatives have always been active in the voluntary sector, but there is a stress on new projects involving the candidates themselves.  The message is: we’re different from the politicians you’re used to.

  • More women and ethic minority candidates…

Downing Street and CCHQ wanted more women and ethnic minority members – not least to fend off a London media fascinated by their representation in the Commons to the point of obsession.

Their preferred means has not been the frontal assault of the A-list but by the flanking manoeuvre of suggestion, recommendation and sometimes – in the sense in which Wolsey uses the word in “A Man for all Seasons” – “pressure”.

The result is that 11 of the 30 are women – just over a third.

They are: Allen, Atkins, Borwick, Churchill, Fernandes, Frazer, Ghani, Morton, Prentis, Sandbach and Whateley.  Of these, Fernandes, Ghani, Morton, Sandbach and Whately have previously contested seats.  So six of the 14 rookie candidates are female.

And six of the 30 are members of ethnic minorities.

These are: Cleverly, Fernandes, Ghani, Jayawardena, Mak and Sunak.  There is also Alberto Costa, the candidate in South Leicestershire, whose parents moved to Britain from Italy.

On women, the proportion to date is roughly in line with the 35 out of 148 new Tory MPs in the 2010 Parliament.  On ethnic minorities, the percentage is much bigger.  There were five new ethnic minority Conservative MPs also in 2010, but out of a new intake of 148 people.  (While that of 2015 may be larger than our sample of 25, it will be nothing like as big as 148.)

CCHQ and Downing Street have therefore done well by some measures in diversifying the Party.  But they have not done so well on others – as below.

* …But no public sector workers.  And no-one on low wages.

None of the 30 work full-time in the public sector or appear to have done so for any significant period – other than two of the lawyers, Costa and Prentis, and Tugendhat. None, either, seem to be on low wages.  This picture mirrors the lack of business experience of Labour MPs and candidates, which Mark Wallace is currently chronicling (see here and here).

* Self-made business people.

Allen, Cartlidge, Hoare, Hollinrake, Malthouse, Morton, Philp and Sunak are recorded as having set up or managed their own businesses.

This will not be an exclusive list.  Argar, Borwick, Churchill, Cleverly, Huddleston, Jayawardena, Quin and Whateley are also in business.  (Jayawardena works in financial services.)

So half of the business people in the new intake – at least eight out of 16 – have at some point started their own enterprise.

Overall, over half of the intake as a whole will work in business  – and there will be almost as many business people who started their own enterprises as there will be women.  That 50 per cent proportion is in line with the 2010 intake.

Allen’s is a family manufacturing business.

Cartlidge’s an affordable housing concern.

Hoare is a public relations consultant specialising in property.

Hollinrake is the managing director of an estate agency.

Malthouse was involved in “a number of startups including County Finance Group where he is still Chairman and majority shareholder”.

Morton runs an electronics and manufacturing business with her husband.

Philp has managed a range of businesses (including his present financial investment firm).

Sunak co-founded an investment firm.

* The return of the lawyers. Is law the new PPE?

No fewer than eight of the 30 are lawyers – almost one in four, a higher proportion than in the 2010 cohort.

There will thus be almost as many lawyers as women in the new intake.  No fewer than five of the seven women are lawyers or, to be more specific, barristers: Atkins, Fernandes, Fraser (who is a QC), Prentis, and Sandbach.

Costa and Mak are solicitors.

Huw Merriman leads the team of lawyers that is winding up Leamans.

Nor does the legal connection end there, since Dowden read law at University.  By contrast, only three of the 30 appear to have read PPE – Huddleston, Sunak and Whateley.  (Mackintosh read politics at Durham.)  Is law the new PPE?

It is a myth that the Conservative benches are crammed with lawyers – pushing off each morning to the courts before dawdling into the Commons during the late afternoons.  Indeed, the departure of Dominic Grieve from the Government at the last reshuffle left it decidedly thin on senior lawyers.  The 2015 intake will go some way to fill the gap.

* Almost half went to state schools, and almost half to Oxbridge.  And there seem to be no Old Etonians.

Establishing where the new intake was educated isn’t easy – in some cases, there is little information to hand.  And finding out which sector isn’t always straightforward, either, since some people transfer from one to the other.  For example, Alan Mak was educated both in the state and private sectors.

However, Argar, Cartlidge, Dowden, Fernandes, Ghani, Huddleston, Jayawardena, Mackintosh, Mak, Malthouse, Merriman, Morton and Philp at least were all wholly or largely schooled in the state sector.

The proportion of state-educated people in the 2010 intake was just over 50 per cent; the proportion in 2015 looks to be just under.

Cartlidge’s, Dowden’s, Huddleston’s, Mackintosh’s and Ghani’s schools were comprehensives, Jayawardena’s and Malthouse’s are now academies, Philp was at a grammar, and Merriman at a non-grammar in selective Buckinghamshire.

All are recorded as having studied at University level.  The Oxbridge presence remains strong.  Argar, Hoare, Huddleston, Johnson, Philp and Sunak are the Oxford contingent; Atkins, Dowden, Frazer and Mak the Cambridge one.

P.S: There are no old Etonians in the intake as far as we can see. Well, no male Old Etonians, at any rate: Borwick turns out to be the beneficiary of an admissions experiment at the school with female pupils during the 1970s.

* Most are married.

26 out of the 30, in fact.  We have found no reference to partners.  When it comes to family life, this is a very conservative intake.

Having a second household income will come in very useful – which will often though not invariably be the case.  MPs are in the top three per cent of earners.  But many members of the new intake – almost certainly most – will be taking a pay cut to enter the Commons.

That Prentis’s husband is also at the bar, for example, or that Allen’s family business is now being run by her husband, helps to demonstrate how the intake will adapt family finances to cope with income cuts and constraints on outside earnings.

* Locality matters – but so does London.

We have not tried to draw too many conclusions about who is and isn’t a local candidate.  To do so would be very subjective – and, as sifting committees in different places know, some candidates are deft at finding local connections in unexpected places.

But as Orwell nearly wrote, all candidates are local, but some candidates are more local than others.  Look at Ranil Jayawardena in North-East Hampshire, solidly embedded as the Deputy Leader of Basingstoke and Dean District Council.  Or Kevin Hollinrake in Thirsk and Malton, “born and brought up in the constituency”.  Or the solitary case of the Special Adviser who’s made it – Oliver Dowden in Hertsmere, who was “born in Park Street, just outside Radlett”.  Locality can help.

None the less, the test that most Associations have applied is the best one: will this person make a good MP or not?  Jo Churchill in Bury St Edmunds is a Lincolnshire councillor.  James Cleverly in Braintree sits as a member of the London Assembly. Boris Johnson is taking a relaxed view about having a home in Uxbridge.  But most other new arrivals are keen to let their constituents know that they will soon be moving in.

Talking of Cleverly and the Mayor, the 2015 intake looks decidedly London-focused – work-wise, at any rate.  By my count, the best part of 23 of the 30 either live or work in the capital.

By way of illustration, Jayawardena and Merriman may both be local councillors in the Home Countries, but both commute into London to work.  Prentice leads the Treasury Solictor’s Justice and Security team.  Her seat is in Oxfordshire.

* The decline of special advisers…

Apart from Dowden, who is David Cameron’s Deputy Chief of Staff, not one has made it to date in the “safe” seats.  And CCHQ experience at a senior level is thin on the ground.  Edward Argar worked as an adviser to Michael Ancram when the latter was was Deputy Leader of the Party and Shadow Foreign Secretary.  Cartlidge worked in the Conservative Research Department and helped to prepare Iain Duncan Smith for Prime Minister’s Questions.  Mackintosh has CCHQ, or rather Central Office, experience. But that’s about it.

This is a significant turnaround.  One explanation is simply that Associations are reacting against special advisers and won’t select them.  Another is that the nature of special advisers itself is changing, that fewer now harbour political ambitions – and that only a small number are consequently on the candidates’ list in the first place.

* …And the rise of councillors

If you count Boris Johnson as a sort of uber-councillor, then almost half the new intake in the “safe” seats either are or have been elected to posts in local government.  (The Mayor of London is, strictly speaking, a 2001 retread.  But since he is returning to the Commons we have counted him in.)

Allen, Argar, Borwick, Cartlidge, Churchill, Cleverly, Hoare, Huddleston, Jayawardena, Johnson, Mackintosh, Philp, Malthouse, Merriman and Morton – all are or have been councillors, and these last two have also been Association Chairmen.

As Boris’s Deputy Mayors, Borwick and Malthouse are particularly senior figures in local government.

None the less, the ranks of the 2015 intake will be packed with others also capable of serving as Local Government ministers.  Associations may have kept professional politicians at arms length.  But they have embraced local councillors with open arms.

* Where is the Left and Right?

Huddleston is a long-standing member of the Tory Reform Group.  Philp has described himself as a Thatcherite.  But such political self-identification is rare in the coming intake.

Why? The main reason is the intense concentration on the intake’s websites and in their proclamations about local issues. Dowden says he will fight to save green belt land.  Sunak’s priorities include the Friarage Hospital and better broadband.  Tugendhat responds on his website to the Scottish Referendum result – but his article is a call for more local democracy than an old-fashioned essay on the future of the constitution.

New candidates digging in to their patches is nothing new.  But what is striking is the relative absence of proclamations about national policy.  To choose an example almost at random, none of the candidates has anything to say on their websites to date about the main threat to national security: Islamist extremism.


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The 30 candidates

Edward Argar

ARGAR EdwardConstituency: Charnwood.

Family: Parents were teachers. Some other family members were hop farmers or served in the armed forces.

Education: “My local state school” and Oxford University, where he read history.

Work: Businessman – “working in a range of corporate and commercial roles in private sector businesses including Hedra, Serco, and infrastructure firm Mouchel”.

Councillor: Yes – Westminster councillor and Cabinet Member for City Management, Transport and Infrastructure.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Oxford East in 2010.

Snapshot: Worked as an adviser to Michael Ancram when the latter was Deputy Leader of the Party and Shadow Foreign Secretary.


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Heidi Allen

Heidi AllenConstituency: South Cambridgeshire.

Education: University College, London, where she read physics.

Family: Married to Phil.

Work: Businesswoman – managing director of family manufacturing business.  Her husband has now taken the role over.

Councillor: Yes – former councillor on St Albans City and District Council.

Former Parliamentary candidate: No.

Snapshot: “[I] hadn’t even considered becoming an MP until she witnessed the scenes of the Tottenham riots in 2011.”


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Victoria Atkins

Victoria AtkinsConstituency: Louth and Horncastle.

Education: Cambridge University, where she read law.

Family: Married to Paul, the Managing Director of a food company, and has one son, Monty.

Work: Barrister – specialising in prosecuting serious organised crime.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary candidate: No.

Snapshot: Raised in Blackpool – “I was the first member of my family to go to university.”


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Victoria Borwick

Borwick Victoria 2Constituency: Kensington

Education: – .

Family: Married to Jamie (Baron Borwick), and has three sons and a daughter.

Work: Statutory Deputy Mayor of London.

Councillor: Yes – former Kensington and Chelsea councillor, and is Member of the London Assembly.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: Former events manager in the corporate and art worlds. Has twice stood to be the Conservative Mayoral candidate, coming second in 2008 to Boris Johnson.


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James Cartlidge

James CartlidgeConstituency: South Suffolk.

Education: Queen Elizabeth School, Barnet (then a comprehensive) Manchester University, where he read economics.

Family: Married to Emily, the daughter of Sir Gerald Howarth, and has four children.

Work: Businessman – founder and director of Share to Buy, “a ’one stop shop’ for affordable housing…for first time buyers.”

Councillor: Yes – on Babergh District Council.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Lewisham Deptford in 2005.

Snapshot: Worked in the Conservative Research Department, wrote editorials for the Daily Telegraph.


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Jo Churchill

Jo ChurchillConstituency: Bury St Edmunds

Education: Dame Alice Harper School, Bedford. “As a mature student, Jo has achieved first class degrees at both BSc and MSc level.”

Family: Married with four daughters.

Work: Businesswoman – Finance Director of a scaffolding firm.

Councillor: Yes – on Lincolnshire County Council.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: “Was in retail for both regional and global brands and this led her into site development and the building industry.” Has had first and second primary cancer.


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James Cleverly

CLEVERLY JamesConstituency: Braintree

Education: Colfe’s School and University of West London (Business degree).

Family: Married to Susannah.

Work: Web and print publisher.

Councillor: Yes – London Assembly Member.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Lewisham East in 2005.

Snapshot: Former professional soldier. Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. Territorial Army Officer.


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Alberto Costa

Alberto-CostaConstituency: South Leicestershire.

Education: Glasgow University.

Family: Married to Maria, a medical scientist, and has two children, Sophie and Alexander.

Work: Solicitor.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Angus in 2010.

Snapshot: Formerly in Treasury Solicitor’s Department.  “Favourite TV shows – Simpsons, The thick of it, Flash forward, Yes Prime Minister, Have I got news for you and Stricly Come Dancing.”


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Oliver Dowden

Oliver DowdenConstituency: Hertsmere.

Education: State comprehensive, and Cambridge University, where he read law.

Family: Married, and has two children, Alice and George.

Work: Currently Deputy Chief of Staff to David Cameron.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: Former lobbyist with Hill and Knowlton and LLM, and member of the Conservative Research Department.


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Suella Fernandes

suellaConstituency: Fareham.

Education: “Local state schools”, “a local independent school where I won a scholarship to help with school fees”, Cambridge University (where she read law) and the Sorbonne

Family: “My parents came to this country with very little in the 1960s, from Kenya and Mauritius. Mum was recruited by the NHS and was a nurse for 45years; and Dad worked for a housing association.”

Work: Barrister.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Leicester East in 2005.

Snapshot: Co-founder, former chair and now trustee of the Africa Justice Foundation (about which she has written for ConHome). Co-founder of the Michaela Community School, a free school in Brent.


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Lucy Frazer

Lucy FrazerConstituency: South East Cambridgeshire.

Education: Cambridge University, where she read law.

Family: Married to David, and has two young children.

Work:  Barrister – specialising in commercial and insolvency work. Queen’s Counsel.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: “The only child in her family to go to university.” Former deputy chair of Hampstead and Kilburn Conservative Association.  One of the youngest QCs in the country.


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Nusrat Ghani

Nusrat GhaniConstituency: Wealden.

Education: Bordesley Green Girls School, the University of Central England and Leeds University, where she studied International Relations.

Family: Married to David, and has one daughter, Farah.

Work: Strategic communications director.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Birmingham Ladywood seat in 2010.

Snapshot: Worked in communications for the BBC. Former Association Deputy Chairman. Has worked in an investment bank and for charities – Age UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.


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Simon Hoare

simonhoareConstituency: North Dorset.

Education: Oxford University, where he read history.

Family: Married to Kate, and has three daughters.

Work: Public Affairs Consultant, specialising in property development.

Councillor: Yes – Oxfordshire County Councillor.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Cardiff South and Penarth in 2010.

Shapshot: “Runs Community Connect”. “Mercian Developments’ Simon Hoare“.


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Kevin Hollinrake

Kevin HollinrakeConstituency: Thirsk and Malton.

Education: Sheffield Hallam University, where he read physics.

Family: Married to Nikky, and has four children.

Work: Estate Agency managing director – co-founded Hunters in 1992.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Was selected to fight Dewsbury for 2010, but resigned as candidate in 2008 to concentrate on his business.

Snapshot: In business since University – “I sold everything from army surplus to mobile phones” – and “in property for the last 25 years”.
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Nigel Huddleston

Nigel HuddlestonConstituency: Mid-Worcestershire.

Education:  Robert Pattinson Comprehensive School and Oxford University, where he read PPE.

Family: Married to Melissa, and has two young children, Tyler and Mackenzie.

Work: Industry Head for Travel at Google.

Councillor: Yes – former St Albans District councillor.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Luton South in 2010.

Snapshot: Management Consultant, formerly with Arthur Anderson and Deloitte.  “I was the first person in my family to go to University and the first person from my School to go to Oxford.”


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Ranil Jayawardena

Rani JayawardenaConstituency: North-East Hampshire.

Education: Robert May’s School, Alton College, LSE.

Family: Married.

Work: Works in financial services for Lloyds.

Councillor: Yes – Basingstoke and Deane District Councillor, and Deputy Leader of the council.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: Freeman of the City of London, Fellow of the RSA, likes watching cricket and tennis.


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Boris Johnson

boris-johnsonConstituency: Uxbridge.

Education: Eton and Oxford University, where he read classics.

Family: Married to Marina, and has four children, Lara Lettice, Cassia Peaches, Milo Arthur and Theodore Apollo.

Work: Mayor of London.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – indeed, is the former MP for Henley, first winning election in 2001. He fought Clwyd South in 1997.

Snapshot: Journalist.  Former Editor of the Spectator.  Writes weekly column for the Daily Telegraph where he Assistant Editor.  Author – his most recent book is The Churchill Factor.


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David Mackintosh

David MackintoshConstituency: Northampton South.

Education:  Roade School, and Durham University, where he read politics.

Family: “Born in Northampton and grew up in the county“.

Work: Appears to be a full-time councillor.

Councillor: Yes – Northampton Borough councillor, and Leader of the Council.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: “Previously worked as a political adviser at Conservative Central Office”.  Former
Cabinet member for Community Services on Northamptonshire County Council.


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Alan Mak:

Alan MakConstituency: Havant.

Education: “Local state primary and secondary schools”, then St Peter’s, York, and then Cambridge University, where he read law.

Family: “I was born and grew up in York, where my parents started and ran a small family business (a small high street shop) for 25 years.”

Work:  Solicitor – works for Clifford Chance.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: Also serves “as a non-executive director/investor in a range of businesses”. Thatcher admirer.


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Kit Malthouse

Kit Malthouse2Constituency: North-West Hampshire.

Education: Sudley County Primary School, Liverpool College and Newcastle University, where he read Politics and Economics.

Family: Married to Juliana Farha, and has three children.

Work: London Deputy Mayor for Business & Enterprise.

Councillor: Yes – London Assembly Member and former Westminster City councillor.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Liverpool Wavertree in 1997.

Snapshot: Chartered Accountant and businessman. Former Deputy Leader at Westminster. Former London Deputy Mayor for Policing.


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Huw Merriman

huw_MerrimanConstituency: Bexhill and Battle.

Education: Buckingham County Secondary School, Aylesbury College, and University College Durham, where he read law.

Family: Married to Victoria, and has three daughters.

Work:  Lawyer – currently Managing Director at Lehman Brothers, charged with leading the team of lawyers who are winding up its estate.

Councillor: Yes – Wealden District Councillor.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought North East Derbyshire in 2010.

Snapshot: Association Chairman.  Works in a hobby farming venture.


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Wendy Morton

MORTON WendyConstituency: Aldridge Brownhills.

Education: “I went to the local primary and  comprehensive school and I gained a Masters Degree (MBA) with the Open University.”

Family: Married to David.

Work: Businesswoman – runs an electronics and manufacturing business with her husband.

Councillor: Yes – former Richmondshire District Councillor.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Tynemouth in 2010.

Snapshot: Party Vice-Chairman.  Former Association Chairman.  Former A-lister.


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Chris Philp

Chris PhilpConstituency: Croydon South.

Education: “State Grammar School – St Olave’s in Orpington”, and Oxford University, where he read physics.

Family: Married to Lizzy, and has twins, Kitty and Nicholas.

Work: Businessman – runs financial investment firm.

Councillor: Yes – former Camden councillor.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Hampstead and Kilburn in 2010.

Snapshot: Set up first business in distribution at 24.  Former Bow Group Chairman.  A “Thatcherite and patriot“.


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Victoria Prentis

Victoria PrentisConstituency: Banbury.

Education: –

Family: Married to Sebastian, and has two daughters.

Work: Barrister – in Treasury Solicitor’s Department, head of the Justice and Security Team.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: Father Tim Boswell was MP for Daventry.  Defended the Government in 7/7 inquiry.  Director of anti-HS2 group Transport Sense.


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Jeremy Quin

Jeremy Quin SquareConstituency: Horsham.

Education: St Alban’s School.

Family: Married to Joanna.

Work: Company adviser and banker – worked for Deutsche Bank and was seconded to the Treasury during the financial crisis.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Meirionnydd Nant Conwy in 1997.

Snapshot: School governor, director of local credit union, helped to establish a free school for autistic children, homeless shelter volunteer.


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Antoinette Sandbach

Antoinette SandbachConstituency: Eddisbury

Education: Nottingham University.

Family: Married, and has one daughter.

Work: Barrister.

Councillor: Yes – Regional Member of the Welsh Assembly since 2011. Was Shadow Rural Affairs Minister.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Delwyn in 2010.

Snapshot: Lived on the family farm in North Wales. Was a patron of  the Chrysalis charity for a number of years raising money to provide counselling for bereaved parents.


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Rishi Sunak

Rishi SunakConstituency: Richmond.

Education: Winchester College, Oxford University, where he read PPE, and Stanford University.

Family: Married to Akshata, and has two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.

Work: Businessman – helping “small and entrepreneurial British companies grow successfully”.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: “Co-founded a large investment firm.”  Head of Policy Exchange’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Research Unit.  Former Fullbright scholar.


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Tom Tugendhat

TugendhatConstituency: Tonbridge and Malling.

Education: St Paul’s and Bristol University, where he read theology.

Family: Married to Anissia, and has one son.

Work: Foreign Office and Territorial Army

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: Helped set up the National Security Council of Afghanistan and the government in Helmand Province.  Learned Arabic in Yemen. Former military assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff.


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Matt Warman

Matt WarmanConstituency: Boston and Skegness.

Education: Haberdashers’ Aske’s and Durham University, where he read English Literature.

Family: Married to Rachel.

Work: Journalist – Head of Technology at the Daily Telegraph.

Councillor: No.

Former Parliamentary Candidate: No.

Snapshot: “My mother-in-law works for the RSPB at Freiston Shore, my father-in-law’s a long-serving science teacher at Boston Grammar.”


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Helen Whately

Helen WhatelyConstituency: Faversham and Mid-Kent.

Education: Oxford University, where she read PPE.

Family: Married, and has three children

Work: Accountant and businesswoman.

Councillor: No

Former Parliamentary Candidate: Yes – fought Kingston and Surbiton in 2010.

Snapshot: Has worked with NHS hospitals, previously ran a business unit at AOL Time Warner, advised Conservatives in opposition on media policy.


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Conclusion – Cameron’s Children

The coming Conservative Parliamentary intake of 2015 can be seen as an exercise in forced perspective – that’s to say, it isn’t at first glance the way it fully is.

On the surface, it looks different from those that have preceded it.  Different, because a majority of its members haven’t fought a seat before.  Different, because the proportion of women is significantly higher than in 2010.  Different because the proportion of ethnic minorities is higher, too.

But beneath the surface, this is in many ways a very traditional Tory intake.  Fifteen of its members are in business, in one way or another.  Eight are lawyers.  Four are full-time councillors.  (We are counting Boris Johnson among their number.) Then there is David Cameron’s Deputy Chief of Staff, a former Foreign Office man…and a solitary full-time journalist.  Two are daughters of former MPs.

Not one man or women, then, who works full-time in the public sector apart from as a lawyer or a civil servant (traditional sources of recruitment for the Party, in the former case at least) – or for that matter appears ever to have done so.  And not one who seems to be on a low income.  The intake of 2015 will thus in some ways reflect the intense push of Downing Street and CCHQ for more candidates of certain types.

The sense we have is that the shape of the 2015 cohort will reflect the desire of Grant Shapps for more candidates with a business background (the Party Chairman is himself a self-made businessman, not a former Special Adviser), and the push of Carolyn Chisholm and Sarah Newton, the co-chairs of the Candidates Commitee, for more women candidates – with the main drive coming from Downing Street.  There is an upside and a downside to these purposes.

The upside is that the 2015 intake will be an extremely talented one.  There are obvious future stars – such as Dowden, Frazer and Philp.  Others will doubtless emerge.  There is no shortage of gifted future Ministers.  The credit for this belongs either to the Downing Street/CCHQ machine, or to the local Associations and primaries that have sifted and picked, or both.  You must make your choice.

The downside is that the results are unlikely to help correct the Party’s main strategic weakness – that it is widely seen as the Party of the Rich.  This is deeply unfair on many of the intake, whose background wasn’t in the least privileged – indeed, the reverse – and have made their way in life themselves.  But where are the nurses and teachers?  The firefighters or police?  The social workers or nursery managers or ambulance drivers?

That we have labelled this cohort “Cameron’s Children” is less a reflection on their political views or their personal loyalties than a fact – namely, that David Cameron has been leader of the Party for rather a long time now: the best part of ten years.

The list from which his these candidates have been drawn and the procedures under which they have been selected are thus very much his list and procedures.  The culled, smaller list, the particular forms of CCHQ “guidance”, the caucus selections – all these are a product of the Party that he has shaped.

The modernisation drive from Number Ten and Downing Ten (correct in itself) has perhaps fallen victim to a weakness to which we are all prone: namely, the belief that if people are the answer to a problem, then they must be people who are rather like us.  The 2015 cohort is an excellent one.  It will do very well indeed.  But it will take that of 2020 to tackle the Party of the Rich problem.



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Footnote: A word on methodology.

Compiling these profiles has been shooting at a moving target – that’s to say, some of the information they contain may be soon be out of date, if not so already.  For example, some of the candidates who are listed as councillors may by now have stood down, but they were so listed when we looked.  We have generally put in links in what seem to us the best places.

Furthermore, some of our selection are a little shy with information, particularly about family and education.  We are not taking a great deal of interest in the former, but the latter is a different matter.  Our figures for the 2010 intake come via Byron Criddle. We have also read closely the latest assessment of our columnist, Lewis Baston, for Westbourne Commnications.

We acknowledge that the 2015 intake may well be larger than our list.  For example, Conservative candidates may hold some, even all, of the nine seats in which members of the 2010 intake are retiring: we will get round to them and others in due course.  But we have to start somewhere – and for better or worse our judgement is that we should start with seats that the Party won in 2005.

All in all, then, we are not attempting to provide complete CVs, but snapshots.  All information from readers and others about education will be read with interest.  But we are not gripped by, say, who slept with whom at Oxford – assuming that the person in question was at Oxford, and also assuming that he or she slept with anyone at the time.