In Conversation with the Rt Hon. Brandon Lewis MP
Our Content Editor, Martin Seiffarth, has taken the liberty of writing a short profile of this Party grandee.
Brandon Lewis has been a Member of Parliament for only eight years. Yet his rise within the Party organisation has been meteoric – from backbencher to minister in four years, and from minister to Chairman in a further four; and his contributions to the Party and the government unusually substantial for someone in his role, ranging from concerted attempts to increase the diversity of Conservative parliamentary candidates to particularly vigorous endeavours aimed at ensuring party unity during this time of increasing strife and division.
Brandon is a King’s alumnus, having obtained his LLM here – a qualification he subsequently put to good use by joining the bar. A few years later, he took his first foray into politics, becoming councillor in Brentwood, Essex – only a few miles from Harold Wood, where he had been born and raised – in 1998. He continued to serve the party and his local community in this position for five years before becoming, in 2004, leader of Brentwood Borough Council as a whole. He maintains personal links to the area to this day.
After only two years in this role, he was selected as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk. Yet for all the enthusiasm some of our members may harbour for that great county, the seat was not considered a winnable one. Labour held a majority of 3,000, which looked likely – if anything – to increase; as a result, the seat was only 66th on the Conservatives’ target list. But through tireless campaigning and achievable promises, Brandon surprisingly won the seat in the 2010 Election with a majority of 4000. As if further proof of his integrity and competence in local government were needed, he has since managed to increase his majority to 6000 in 2015 and 8000 in 2017. Within only ten years, he has succeeded in making a fairly safe Labour seat into a Conservative stronghold.
In addition to his excellent work in his constituency, he became Party Chairman – the reason, other than his representing a Norfolk constituency, for which most of us know him today – this year; his engagement in this role, too, has been tireless. Many of us may believe the role to involve no more than making speeches at Party Conference. But that engagement is only a small part of the role as envisaged by Balfour, who created it in 1910: the ‘Chairman of the Party Organization[sic]’ was to be a ‘father figure’ of sorts for a Party increasingly divided on key issues; he was to calm more extreme spirits, reconcile the party’s manifold wings, and encourage unity and co-operation.
Today, with the same problem of internal strife re-presenting itself so prominently with Brexit, the role is more difficult than ever. When even Cabinet Ministers – and former Cabinet Ministers who still hold themselves in the same regard as when they were – openly criticise both the Prime Minister and one another, a steady, strict, sometimes perhaps a little heavy-handed approach is what is needed. It is a testimony to Brandon’s dedication to and skill in his role that he has continued to implement precisely this despite often unreasonable criticism both from the media and, unfortunately, from one or two prominent colleagues.