Back to FrogFind! | Browsing URL:

Edward Leigh - Wikipedia

View page images: [1]

Sir Edward Julian Egerton Leigh (born 20 July 1950) is a British Conservative Party politician who has served as a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1983.[1]

Leigh has represented Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in the House of Commons since 1983 (representing its predecessor constituency, Gainsborough and Horncastle, until 1997).[2]

Leigh was knighted in the Queen's 2013 Birthday Honours for "public and political service",[3][4] and has also received honours from the French and Italian Governments.

Initially dubbed "the Viscount" in parliamentary circles alluding to his landed gentry background, Leigh has a reputation at Westminster for his independence of mind as a "serial rebeller",[5] who is prepared to vote against his own political party if it conflicts with his own principles.[6] He was one of the original Maastricht Rebels and reportedly got the sack for organising Euro-rebels among ministers.[6] In 2003 Leigh opposed military intervention in Iraq;[7] he has since called for those who voted for the Iraq War, and are still seeking to justify their support for it, to be held to account.[8]

He served as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee from 2001 to 2010, investigating government waste and seeking value for money in public expenditure. Leigh stepped down at the end of the parliamentary session in 2010, it being customary for an opposition MP to hold this post.[9]

Leigh has edited and authored three books: Right Thinking (1988); The Nation That Forgot God (2008);[10] and Monastery of the Mind (2012).[11]

Early life[edit]

Leigh was educated at The Oratory School, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle (the French School in London) before going up to University College, Durham, where he read History (BA) and was elected President of the Durham Union Society.

After graduating Leigh was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple and practised in arbitration and criminal law at Goldsmiths Chambers.[12] He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb) and formerly served as a trooper [13] in the Honourable Artillery Company.[14]


His father, Sir Neville Leigh, hailed from the ancient Cheshire family of West Hall, High Legh, a descendant of the Egertons, earls of Bridgewater.

His maternal grandfather was Colonel Cyril Denzil Branch, a French citizen, and he is a nephew of Prince Nikolai Galitzine.[15] He is also the third cousin of British comedian Al Murray.[16]

Political career[edit]

Leigh first stood for Parliament at the October 1974 general election when he contested the safe Labour seat of Middlesbrough, but he was beaten by Arthur Bottomley.

Leigh worked in the private office of Margaret Thatcher from 1976 to 1977 as a political secretary when she was Leader of the Opposition. Leigh was elected to Richmond Borough Council and thereafter to the Greater London Council, serving as Councillor between 1974 and 1981.

In 1983, he was returned as MP for Gainsborough and Horncastle. A strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher, Leigh visited 10 Downing Street with fellow MP Michael Brown on the morning of Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister in 1990 to try to persuade her to carry on.[17] Although Charles Powell advised them it was a forlorn task, they were nonetheless granted access to the Cabinet which was in process at the time. Leigh and Brown departed 10 Downing Street and walked down Whitehall back to the House of Commons reputedly with "tears in their eyes". After Thatcher resigned, in the ensuing leadership election, Leigh supported Michael Heseltine, under whom he had served at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), preferring to support someone who had stabbed Thatcher in the front to those who had stabbed her in the back.[18]

Leigh served as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in John Major's ministry but was sacked in May 1993 over the stance he took by opposing the Maastricht Treaty. Whilst in office at the DTI he was a keen advocate of privatisation of the Post Office (opposed by Labour at the time but as the Royal Mail division attracting general bipartisan support and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013). In the following Conservative leadership election, Leigh supported John Redwood.[18]

From 2001 until 2010, Leigh served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the principal parliamentary body auditing the Budget, investigating government waste and seeking value for money in public expenditure. During his two terms as Chairman, the PAC took evidence on 420 separate government projects and programmes and was responsible for saving the taxpayer over £4 billion.[19][better source needed]

In October 2006, Leigh was vocal in stating that after David Cameron had become leader of the party, core supporters were drifting away from voting Conservative.[20] Nonetheless, his effective chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee led to the rejuvenation of his parliamentary career.[21]

Early in 2008, as Chairman of the PAC, he was embarrassed by relying on flawed Department for Transport (DfT) statistics to attack motorcyclists for tax evasion. He accused 38% of motorcyclists of evading vehicle excise duty. He later apologised for this following the admission by the DfT that 95.5% of motorcycles are entirely legal.[22]

Leigh was President of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group representing the views of over 40 Conservative Members of Parliament and was author of the group's inaugural pamphlet Faith, Flag and Family in 2005.[23]

From 2010 to 2011, Leigh served as an Independent Financial Advisor to HM Treasury, appointed by George Osborne to bring external challenge to the development and implementation of a new financial management strategy for central government. He stood down in 2011, but was then reappointed to report directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on improving Parliament's financial scrutiny of the Budget. He was a member of the Treasury Financial Reporting & Advisory Board and, in 2010, Leigh became a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, speaking regularly and serving on the Culture, Science, Education and Media Committee.[24]

At the end of 2010 Leigh was offered but declined the British ambassadorship to the Holy See.[25] Leigh also supported Boris Johnson's call to George Osborne in 2011 for lowering the rate of taxation in the UK so as to assist its economic recovery following the credit crunch.[26] Leigh, a qualified barrister and an Assembly Member of the Council of Europe,[27] opposes further human rights legislation, as proposed by the European Court of Human Rights.[28]

In 2011, Leigh was appointed Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, the body which audits the National Audit Office.

In 2012, Leigh, together with a record number of fellow Conservative MPs, including numerous Privy Counsellors, successfully voted against the Coalition Government's attempted railroading of House of Lords Reform by limiting time for meaningful parliamentary debate on this major constitutional issue.[29]

In September 2014, Leigh criticised the Government's decision to allow mitochondrial replacement therapy to prevent the birth of the children with incurable diseases such as muscular dystrophy. These diseases affect up to 1 in 6,500 babies which Leigh stated could lead to people being "harvested for their parts" and a divide between what he referred to as "the modified and the unmodified". The Department for Health asserted no genetic modification is involved.[30]

In 2015, the French President appointed him to the Légion d'honneur for his role as "a bridge between our parliaments, our governments and our societies", as stated by H.E. Sylvie Bermann at his investiture.[31]

In March 2016, he joined three other Conservative MPs in "talking out" a Bill introduced by Green Party MP Dr Caroline Lucas, which aimed to reverse moves to privatise the NHS. By filibustering for three and a half hours, Lucas was left with just 17 minutes to present her Bill, which was subsequently shelved without a vote.[32]

One of 21 MPs who, in March 2019, voted against LGBT inclusive sex and relationship education in English schools,[33][34][35]

Leigh was reelected with a large majority at the 2019 general election.[36]

In 2020, Leigh suggested that the U.K. take back Calais to prevent migrants seeking asylum by crossing the English Channel from France.[37]


Leigh is a Roman Catholic, and maintains a personal blog containing Thoughts from a Christian perspective.[38] He has argued for tightening of abortion law regarding human embryonic research.[39][40][41] He was on the losing side in defence of Section 28 and opposed the Civil Partnership Act 2004, voting against it in Parliament at its Second Reading. Leigh later proposed an amendment to extend the property and pension rights afforded by civil partnerships to siblings who had lived together for more than 12 years. This was opposed by many backers of the initial Bill, such as fellow Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan, who dubbed it a wrecking amendment.[42][43]

Following an interim report on the connections between colonialism and properties now in the care of the National Trust, including links with historic slavery, Leigh was among the signatories of a letter to The Telegraph from the "Common Sense Group" of Conservative Parliamentarians. The letter accused the National Trust of being "coloured by cultural Marxist dogma, colloquially known as the 'woke agenda'".[44]

Leigh identifies as a Thatcherite and believes in "free enterprise, deregulation, low taxation and a smaller state". He supports replacing the National Health Service with an insurance based system.[45]

Opposition to Conservative leadership[edit]

On a number of occasions Leigh has voted against the leadership of his party where it conflicts with his personal principles.[6] In 2003, Leigh rebelled against the leadership of his own party and the Labour government to oppose military intervention in Iraq in 2003.[7] He was one of only 15 Conservative rebels who opposed it at the time.

Since the 2016 European Union Referendum, Leigh advocates Brexit.[46]

In October 2017, the House of Commons overwhelmingly passed an Opposition motion to delay the introduction of Universal Credit and iron out problems with the system first. Leigh strongly criticised the Government decision to ignore the vote, stating: "the road to tyranny is paved by executives ignoring parliaments."[47]

Speakership elections[edit]

A veteran backbencher, Leigh was encouraged to run for the Speakership of the House of Commons, and after the 2010 general election for one of the Deputy Speakerships, but chose not to stand then as parliamentary convention was that governing party members were not to be elected to such offices unless already in situ.[48][49]

Leigh ran for the Speakership of the House of Commons in 2019 after Speaker John Bercow retired; he stated that, if elected Speaker, he would be fair to all sides and assume a traditional role.[50] He was eliminated after receiving 12 votes in the first ballot.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups[edit]

Fluent in French, Leigh currently serves as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on France and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Italy, delivering a speech in Italian at the Palace of Westminster to visiting Deputies of the Italian Parliament. He is also the Chairman of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance, and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and International Development subcommittee of the 1922 Committee.[51]


Leigh was knighted in 2013 for "public and political service",[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

Leigh married Mary Goodman in London on 25 September 1984; the great granddaughter of Duke Georg Alexander of Mecklenburg-Strelitz through her mother, and the great-granddaughter of Lady Ottoline Morrell through her father. She is a direct descendant of Catherine II, Empress of Russia and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, a sister of King George III.[53] By marrying a Roman Catholic, Lady Leigh had previously forfeited her precedence in the line of succession to the British throne until the change in the law of 2013.

Sir Edward and Lady Leigh have six children (Natalia, Tamara, Benedict, Marina, Nicholas, and Theodore) and divide their time between homes in Westminster and in his Lincolnshire constituency. Their three eldest children work for HM Government as civil servants.[citation needed]

Leigh has the skin condition rosacea and spoke out in March 2020 about being mocked on social media for his appearance.[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh MP". Gainsborough Conservatives. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Edward Leigh profile". UK Parliament Website. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b "No. 60534". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2013. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b "Birthday Honours List 2013" (PDF). HM Government. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  5. ^ "David Cameron sparks MPs' protests in the Commons by sacking three 'serial' Tory rebels from Europe body". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Sir Edward Leigh MP: After a weak Queen's Speech, we could lose the next election - unless we change course".
  7. ^ a b "Did your MP support the rebels?". The BBC. London, UK. 19 March 2003.
  8. ^ cornerstonegroup (14 July 2016). "On the Chilcot Report". Cornerstone. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Leigh to step down as head of PAC". FM World. 26 October 2009.
  10. ^ Leigh, Edward (31 March 2008). Haydon, Alex (ed.). The Nation That Forgot God: A Book of Essays. London: Social Affairs Unit. ISBN 9781904863410.
  11. ^ Leigh, Sir Edward (31 July 2012). Monastery of the Mind: A Pilgrimage with St Ignatius. St Pauls Publishing. ISBN 9780854398133.
  12. ^ "About Us - Goldsmith Chambers".
  13. ^[bare URL]
  14. ^ Profile,; accessed 14 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Burke's Peerage - The Official Website". Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  16. ^ Burke's Peerage. 2003.
  17. ^ John Blundell (September 2008). Lady Thatcher: A Portrait. Algora Publishing. pp. 162-163. ISBN 978-0-87586-631-4. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  18. ^ a b Byron Criddle (10 September 2012). Almanac of British Politics. Taylor & Francis. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-415-26833-2. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  19. ^ 'An open letter to my successor as Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts', by Edward Leigh MP, March 2010
  20. ^ Hastings, Max (1 October 2006). "Max Hastings: Cameron's big problem - the Conservative party".
  21. ^ "An artful game by the taxpayers' champion". The Telegraph. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  22. ^ "MPs apologise for motorbike error". BBC News Online. BBC. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  23. ^ "Tory Catholic seeks to return 'faith, flag and family' to heart of party philosophy". Catholic Herald. 29 July 2005. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  24. ^ "Council of Europe - Edward Leigh MP - Gainsborough".
  25. ^ The Daily Telegraph. Leigh turns down appointment as UK Ambassador to The Vatican
  26. ^ The Evening Standard: Leigh joins call for lower taxes Archived 1 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "PACE Member File Edward Leigh". Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  28. ^ "If we want our human rights then bring them back home",; accessed 14 July 2015.
  29. ^ "PM pledges one more try at Lords reform". 11 July 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  30. ^ Press Association (1 September 2014). "Britain will be considered a 'rogue state' if it creates GM people, MP warns". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  31. ^ "Sir Edward Leigh is made an Officier in the Légion d'Honneur". Archived from the original on 26 February 2019.
  32. ^ NHS Reinstatement Bill: Tory MPs filibuster debate by talking about deporting foreigners for hours. The Independent. Published 11 March 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  33. ^ Butterworth, Benjamin (28 March 2019). "MPs vote for LGBT inclusive sex and relationship education from primary school".
  34. ^ Bartlett, Nicola (28 March 2019). "21 MPs who voted against teaching kids about gay families". mirror.
  35. ^ "Draft Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 - CommonsVotes".
  36. ^
  37. ^ Demianyk, Graeme (12 August 2020). "A Tory MP Has Suggested 'Taking Back Calais' As Solution To Migrant Crossings". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  38. ^ "Another Country | Thoughts from a Christian perspective — by Edward Leigh". Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  39. ^ "MPs throw out bids to reduce abortion limit". 20 May 2008.
  40. ^ "The Most Dangerous Position In Britain Today Is... 'To Be A Female Foetus'". 9 October 2013.
  41. ^ Sparrow, Andrew (19 May 2008). "Ban on hybrid embryos and saviour siblings fails".
  42. ^ Davie, Edward (9 November 2004). "Conservatives split on civil partnerships". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  43. ^ Coward, Colin (9 November 2004). "Civil Partnership bill wrecking amendment defeated". Changing Attitude. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007.
  44. ^ "Britain's heroes". Letter to the Daily Telegraph. 9 November 2020. Retrieved 30 January 2021.CS1 maint: others (link)
  45. ^ Daly, Patrick (20 June 2018). "'I was a mini bastard': Sir Edward Leigh looks back on his 35 years as an MP". Grimsby Live. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  46. ^ "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence? - Coffee House". 16 February 2016.
  47. ^ We're not ignoring you but vote doesn't bind, PM's deputy tells MPs The Guardian 19 October 2017
  48. ^ MP, Sir Edward Leigh (25 April 2019). "When a vacancy occurs I intend to stand for the office of Speaker. I would be a traditional Speaker who does not speak much. Like a judge I would, by my conduct and dress, submerge my personality into the office". @EdwardLeighMP. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  49. ^ Lodge, Matthew (25 April 2019). "Sir Edward Leigh says he wants to replace Bercow and become Speaker". lincolnshirelive. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  50. ^ "Sir Edward Leigh: If elected Speaker, I would submerge my personality into the office and keep business flowing". 11 September 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  51. ^ "Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  52. ^ "Privy Council appointments December 2018". GOV.UK.
  53. ^ "Line of Succession to the British Throne".
  54. ^ "Sir Edward Leigh speaks out about 'red face' mocking". BBC News. 12 March 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2021.

External links[edit]