Nicholas Soames

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Sir Nicholas Soames

MP
Official portrait of Sir Nicholas Soames crop 2.jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
6 November 2003 10 May 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Bernard Jenkin
Succeeded by Michael Ancram
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
In office
20 July 1994 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Jeremy Hanley
Succeeded by John Reid
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
14 April 1992 20 July 1994
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David MacLean
Succeeded by Angela Browning
Member of Parliament
for Mid Sussex
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Tim Renton
Majority19,673 (31.9%)
Member of Parliament
for Crawley
In office
9 June 1983 1 May 1997
Preceded by Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)
Succeeded by Laura Moffatt
Personal details
Born
Arthur Nicholas Winston Soames

(1948-02-12) 12 February 1948 (age 71)
Croydon, Surrey, England
Political party Conservative (until September 2019)
Independent (2019–present)
Spouse(s)
Catherine Weatherall
(m. 19811988)

Serena Smith
(m. 1993)
Children3
Parents Christopher Soames
Mary Soames
Education Eton College
Alma mater Mons Officer Cadet School
Website Official website
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1967–1975
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit 11th Hussars
Royal Hussars

Sir Arthur Nicholas Winston Soames (born 12 February 1948), sometimes known as Nick Soames, is a British politician serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Sussex since 1997. He was first elected to Parliament in 1983 for Crawley and sat as a Conservative until 3 September 2019 when Soames had the Conservative whip removed after voting against the government. He subsequently began to sit as an independent MP.

Member of Parliament (United Kingdom) Representatives in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, Member of Parliament (MP) is the title given to individuals elected to serve in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Mid Sussex (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1974 onwards

Mid Sussex is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 1997 by Sir Nicholas Soames, an independent MP, formerly a Conservative.

1997 United Kingdom general election election for members of the British House of Commons

The 1997 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 1 May 1997, five years after the previous general election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. Under the leadership of Tony Blair, the Labour Party ended its eighteen-year spell in opposition and won the general election with a landslide victory, winning 418 seats, a landslide majority of 179 seats, the most seats the party has ever held to date, and the highest proportion of seats held by any party in the post-war period. For the first time since 1931, the outgoing government lost more than half its parliamentary seats in an election, and over 100 sitting Conservative MPs lost their seats.

Contents

Soames was Minister of State for the Armed Forces from 1994 to 1997 in the government of John Major. His main political interests are defence, international relations, rural affairs and industry. He is the grandson of Winston Churchill.

Minister of State for the Armed Forces

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces is a high-ranking ministerial position, subordinate only to the Secretary of State for Defence, at the Ministry of Defence in Her Majesty's Government.

John Major Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir John Major is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. Previously Foreign Secretary and then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thatcher Government from 1989 to 1990, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon from 1979 until his retirement in 2001. Since the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013, Major has been both the oldest and earliest-serving of all living former prime ministers.

International relations Relationships between two or more states

International relations (IR) or international affairs (IA) — commonly also referred to as international studies (IS), global studies (GS), or global affairs (GA) — is the study of interconnectedness of politics, economics and law on a global level. Depending on the academic institution, it is either a field of political science, an interdisciplinary academic field similar to global studies, or an entirely independent academic discipline in which students take a variety of internationally focused courses in social science and humanities disciplines. In all cases, the field studies relationships between political entities (polities) such as sovereign states, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs), and the wider world-systems produced by this interaction. International relations is an academic and a public policy field, and so can be positive and normative, because it analyses and formulates the foreign policy of a given state.

Early life, education and military service

Soames was born 1948 in Croydon and is the grandson of the British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, the son of Lord and Lady Soames, and a great-nephew of the founders of the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell and Olave Baden-Powell. His brother is the industrialist Rupert Soames.

Croydon town in South London, England

Croydon is a large town in south London, England, 9.4 miles (15.1 km) south of Charing Cross. The principal settlement in the London Borough of Croydon, it is one of the largest commercial districts outside Central London, with an extensive shopping district and night-time economy.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Head of UK Government

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, until 1801 known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is the head of government of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister directs both the executive and the legislature, and, together with the Prime Minister's Cabinet,, is accountable to the Monarch, to Parliament, to the Prime Minister's political party and, ultimately, to the electorate for the policies and actions of the executive and the legislature.

Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during most of World War II

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for the last of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was a member of the Liberal Party.

Simon Hoggart, writing in The Guardian , related an anecdote of Soames' childhood: "He gave me the true version of what I had always suspected was an apocryphal story. In or around 1953, when Soames was five, he didn't know how important his grandfather was until someone told him. So he walked up to the old man's bedroom, managed to get past the valets and the secretaries, and found him sitting up in bed. 'Is it true, grandpapa, that you are the greatest man in the world?' he asked. 'Yes I am,' said Churchill. 'Now bugger off.'" [1]

Simon Hoggart English journalist and broadcaster

Simon David Hoggart was an English journalist and broadcaster. He wrote on politics for The Guardian, and on wine for The Spectator. Until 2006 he presented The News Quiz on Radio 4. His journalism sketches have been published in a series of books.

<i>The Guardian</i> British national daily newspaper

The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, the Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust. The trust was created in 1936 to "secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian free from commercial or political interference". The trust was converted into a limited company in 2008, with a constitution written so as to maintain for The Guardian the same protections as were built into the structure of the Scott Trust by its creators. Profits are reinvested in journalism rather than distributed to owners or shareholders.

After attending St. Aubyns Preparatory School in Sussex, Soames received his secondary education at Eton College. Later he studied at Mons Officer Cadet School before being commissioned into the 11th Hussars on 5 August 1967 on a Short Service Commission before serving in West Germany and Britain with the 11th Hussars and later the Royal Hussars. [2] Soames was transferred to Regular Army Reserve of Officers on 9 March 1970 before resigning his commission on 5 August 1975. [3] [4]

Secondary education education for most teenagers

Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education scale. Level 2 or lower secondary education is considered the second and final phase of basic education, and level 3 (upper) secondary education is the stage before tertiary education. Every country aims to provide basic education, but the systems and terminology remain unique to them. Secondary education typically takes place after six years of primary education and is followed by higher education, vocational education or employment. Like primary education, in most countries secondary education is compulsory, at least until the age of 16. Children typically enter the lower secondary phase around age 11. Compulsory education sometimes extends to age 19.

Eton College school in Windsor and Maidenhead, UK

Eton College is a 13–18 independent boarding school and sixth form for boys in the parish of Eton, near Windsor in Berkshire, England. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as Kynge's College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore , as a sister institution to King's College, Cambridge, making it the 18th-oldest Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference school. Eton's history and influence have made Eton one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

Mons Officer Cadet School

Mons Officer Cadet School was a former British military training establishment in Aldershot.

Early career

In 1970, he was appointed Equerry to HRH The Prince of Wales; he has remained a close friend of the Prince ever since and publicly criticised Diana, Princess of Wales, during the couple's estrangement. When Diana first accused the Prince of Wales of adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles, Soames told the BBC that the accusation, and Diana's fear of being slandered by her husband's courtiers, stemmed merely from Diana's mental illness, and "the advanced stages of paranoia". [5] Charles later admitted his adultery and Soames apologised. When questioned by the inquest into the death of Diana, Soames said that he saw his job as "to speak up for the Prince of Wales". He denied threatening Diana, and warning her, "accidents happen" in the months before she died. [6]

An equerry is an officer of honour. Historically, it was a senior attendant with responsibilities for the horses of a person of rank. In contemporary use, it is a personal attendant, usually upon a sovereign, a member of a royal family, or a national representative. The role is equivalent to an aide-de-camp, but the term is now prevalent only in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Charles, Prince of Wales Son of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent to the British throne as the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II. He has been Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay since 1952, and is the oldest and longest-serving heir apparent in British history. He is also the longest-serving Prince of Wales, having held that title since 1958.

Diana, Princess of Wales member of the British royal family

Diana, Princess of Wales, was a member of the British royal family. She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Diana's activism and glamour made her an international icon and earned her an enduring popularity as well as an unprecedented public scrutiny, exacerbated by her tumultuous private life.

In 1972, he left Kensington Palace and the army to work as a stockbroker. In 1974, he became a personal assistant; first to Sir James Goldsmith and then in 1976 to United States Senator Mark Hatfield, whose employ he left in 1978 to become a director of Bland Welch, Lloyd's Brokers. Between 1979–81, he was an assistant director of the Sedgwick Group.[ citation needed ] He fought Central Dunbartonshire in Scotland in 1979, where Labour's Hugh McCartney defeated him by 12,003 votes.

Parliamentary career

Soames was elected as the MP for Crawley at the 1983 general election. He sat for Crawley until the 1997 general election (when Labour defeated the Conservatives in Crawley). In the 1997 election, he retained the constituency of Mid Sussex for the Conservatives after Tim Renton stood down at the election, and Soames has remained the seat's MP since then.

He served as a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food between 1992 and 1994, as Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the Ministry of Defence under Prime Minister John Major between 1994 and 1997, and later as the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence from 2003 to 2005.

In 2002 he was appointed to the parliamentary committee considering the future Hunting Act 2004 that banned hunting with dogs, a policy which he opposed. [7] [8]

On 9 May 2005, shortly after Michael Howard announced his intention to resign as leader of the Conservative Party, Soames resigned from the shadow cabinet. He immediately ended speculation that he intended to stand for the post of leader, saying that he merely wanted to be free to think about, and to influence the future of the party. He added that he was interested in joining the executive of the 1922 Committee. He later announced his support for David Cameron. [9]

With Frank Field he is a co-chairman of the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration, [10] and has advocated in parliament [11] and in the media that immigration to and emigration from the UK should be brought into balance. [12] In parliament he has also spoken in favour of the introduction of a national identity card scheme [13] and advocated them in the national media. [14]

On 13 July 2011, Soames was sworn of the Privy Council. [15] He was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for political service. [16] [17]

Soames with former Czechoslovak RAF members in Prague, Czech Republic, June 2014 Unveiling.Winged.Lion.Prague.2014.pic2.jpg
Soames with former Czechoslovak RAF members in Prague, Czech Republic, June 2014

Soames was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 EU membership referendum. [18] In an interview before the referendum he described himself as a One Nation Tory on the soft left of the party, and compared Brexiteers to 'a growling Alsatian that must be kicked really hard in the balls'. [19]

In April 2019, Soames condemned the United States for recognizing Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. Soames said it was "a matter of the greatest regret that our allies, the United States, are in clear contravention of UN Resolution 497", adding that "annexation of territory is prohibited under international law." [20]

Soames endorsed Rory Stewart during the 2019 Conservative leadership election. [21]

Allegations of sexism

According to the book Women in Parliament published in 2005, Soames has been named as the 'most sexist' MP, with several female MPs stating that he has made vulgar comments to them. [22] In other accusations of sexual harassment, it has been alleged that Soames makes repeated cupping gestures with his hands, suggestive of female breasts, when women are trying to speak in parliament, in order to distract them. [23] He allegedly harassed Alastair Campbell by telephoning him and saying "you sex god, you Adonis, you the greatest of all great men". However, unknown to Soames, he was actually speaking to Campbell's young son. [24]

On 31 January 2017, Soames made 'woofing' noises at Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh when she was asking the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, a question in the House of Commons. Ahmed-Sheikh called a point of order to bring the speaker's attention to the noises. [25] John Bercow, the speaker, described the noises as "discourteous and that expression should not be used", and Soames was asked to apologise. [26] He did so, saying he was only offering her a "friendly canine salute" in reply to her "snapped" question. [25]

Sitting as an independent

On 3 September 2019, Soames joined 21 other rebel Conservative MPs to vote against the Conservative government of Boris Johnson and pass a motion allowing backbenchers to take control of the House of Commons timetable in order to pass a bill to stop a ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU without parliamentary approval. Effectively, they helped block Johnson's Brexit plan from proceeding on 31 October. [27] Subsequently, all 21 were advised that they had lost the Conservative "whip", [28] expelling them as Conservative MPs, requiring them to sit as independents. [29] [30] If they decided to stand for re-election in a future election, the Party would block their selection as Conservative candidates. [31]

Soames announced that he would not be standing in the next general election. [32]

Inheritance tax affair

In one edition of The Mark Thomas Comedy Product , Mark Thomas investigated the practice of avoiding inheritance tax by declaring art, furniture, homes and land available for public viewing. After discovering that Soames was claiming tax relief on a "three-tier mahogany buffet with partially reeded slender balustrade upright supports" on this basis, but without making any arrangements for the furniture to be inspected by the public, Thomas invented a 'National Soames Day' on which hundreds of people made appointments to see the furniture. [33] [34] Soames subsequently decided to pay the tax on the item and Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, changed the law.[ citation needed ] In 2015, Thomas told The Independent's Adam Jacques: "I try to find the good in my enemies. It's not unusual to be able to get on with people despite what they are doing being awful. The only person I have met who I considered to be without any redeeming features was […] Nicholas Soames. […] He was such a pantomime baddie." [34]

Aegis Defence Services

Soames was chairman [35] [36] of the private security contractor Aegis Defence Services which was bought [37] in 2015 by GardaWorld, for whom he now acts as a member of the International Advisory Board. Aegis had a series of contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to provide guards to protect US military bases in Iraq from 2004 onwards. From 2011, the company broadened its recruitment to take in African countries, having previously employed people from the UK, the US and Nepal.

Contract documents say that the soldiers from Sierra Leone were paid $16 (£11) a day. A documentary, The Child Soldier’s New Job, broadcast in Denmark, alleges that the estimated 2,500 Sierra Leonean personnel who were recruited by Aegis and other private security companies to work in Iraq included former child soldiers. [38]

Other outside interests

He is a director of the liquidated company Framlington Second Dual Trust plc. [39]

Political funding

Mid Sussex Conservative Constituency Association has received over £1 million in donations, with Soames receiving well over £100,000 from private military company Aegis Defence Services Ltd from 2010 onwards. [40] US multinational professional services, risk management and insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc has given Soames £518,069 since 2010 in remunerations for his services as an MP. [41] Soames has also received private donations from a variety of people, including £5,749 from Majlis As Shura, £10,000 from David Rowland, and £20,000 from Ann R. Said. [42]

Meeting with Robert Mugabe

In October 2017, Soames faced criticism following a meeting with Robert Mugabe while visiting Zimbabwe. [43] Zimbabwean media claimed that the visit was "part of a private initiative of friends of Zimbabwe in the British establishment" to normalise relations between the two countries, and quoted Mugabe as saying that Soames had carried messages of goodwill from both Lord Carrington (who had co-signed the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement on behalf of the British Government) and Prince Charles. [44] The Zimbabwean state-owned newspaper The Herald asserted that "Sir Nicholas insisted on meeting President Mugabe in the full glare of publicity. He promised to publicise details of the meeting in the British media."

In response, Soames maintained that he had met Mugabe in a personal capacity, rather than as a representative of the UK government: he said that his father Christopher Soames, who had overseen Zimbabwe's transition to independence, would not have forgiven him if he had not tried to "call on" the president. [43]

MP Kate Hoey, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, criticised the visit, stating that Soames' behaviour "pander(ed) to the vanity of a wily and ruthless dictator." She continued "(y)ou can't have a private visit which is then front page of the newspapers in Zimbabwe." [43] [45]

Personal life

Soames has been married twice. His first marriage (4 June 1981 – 1988) was to Catherine Weatherall [46] (the sister of Isobel Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne). They have one son:

He married, secondly, Serena Smith (a niece of the Duchess of Grafton and daughter of Sir John Smith) on 21 December 1993. They have two children.

His brother, Rupert Soames, is the CEO of the outsourcing company Serco.

Driving offences

On 15 May 2008, Soames pleaded guilty to riding a quad bike on a public road without motor insurance. A photograph of Soames using the vehicle to pull a trailer carrying three children and a pregnant woman was taken from footage filmed by hunt saboteurs in Slaugham, West Sussex, on New Year's Day. It was given to the police and published by the Daily Mirror . Since he had several previous offences on his licence, he was disqualified from driving for two months, fined £200, and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and costs of £35 by Crawley magistrates. [48]

In 2012, he was disqualified from driving for two weeks for speeding at 51 mph in a 30 mph residential area in Handcross. Soames was also fined £666, plus £85 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge. [49] The Argus , a Sussex paper, describes him as an 'anti-speed MP'. [50] According to the Argus, it was 'the third time he has been caught flouting traffic laws in four years'. After the ruling at Mid Sussex Magistrates' Court on 17 October 2012, Soames told The Argus: "These things happen. Haven't you ever gone over the speed limit?" The speeding incident was criticised by Brake, a campaigning road safety charity, which said, "speed limits are in place for everyone’s safety, and it is particularly alarming to see a public figure like Nicholas Soames repeatedly flouting traffic laws and needlessly putting lives at risk. A two-week ban and a £666 fine is simply not enough, and we would like to see courts hand out tougher penalties to traffic offenders in order to create a real deterrent". [50]

Titles and styles

Ancestry

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Crawley

19831997
Succeeded by
Laura Moffatt
Preceded by
Tim Renton
Member of Parliament
for Mid Sussex

1997–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jeremy Hanley
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
1994–1997
Succeeded by
John Reid
Preceded by
Bernard Jenkin
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
2003–2005
Succeeded by
Michael Ancram