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Graham Brady

Position: 1922 Committee: Executive member 1998-2000, 2007-10, Chair 2010

Last Updated: Friday, October 29th, 2010

Graham Brady was the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons when he was first elected in 1997 (a couple of weeks shy of 30). Yet thirteen years later, he finds himself in the highly influential position of chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, a post more traditionally occupied by a knight of the shires at the end of his parliamentary career.

Born in 1967, he was educated at Altrincham Grammar School and first became politically active in the Conservative Party at the age of sixteen when the school was under threat from anti-grammar schools campaigners. He then went up to Durham University, where he studied Law, met his now wife Victoria and chaired not only the university Conservative Association but also the Conservative student organisation in the Northern region.

He moved south after graduation, working both in public affairs and at the Centre for Policy Studies, before returning home to Greater Manchester when he was selected and then elected for Altrincham and Sale West in the Conservative interest (When re-elected at the 2001 and 2005 elections found himself as the sole Tory MP elected in Greater Manchester after the loss of Cheadle to the Lib Dems).

During WiIliam Hague’s leadership, Brady served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to party chairman Michael Ancram, then as a whip and employment spokesman. He served as spokesman on schools throughout Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership, and was asked by Michael Howard to work as his PPS on his emergence as party leader in 2003.

The following year Howard appointed him Shadow Europe Minister, a role which he retained on David Cameron’s election as Tory leader, but from which he resigned in the summer of 2007.

He was the casualty of the so-called “Grammargate” row, when David Cameron and then shadow education secretary David Willetts pushed the policy that the Conservatives would oppose the creation of any new grammar schools. Brady broke ranks and insisted that all children do better in areas (like his own in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford) where selective education survives and that the creation of new grammar schools in the inner cities would raise education standards. 

The row bubbled away for several weeks, but thirteen days after his initial intervention on the issue, he felt that resignation was the only honourable course of action if he was to continue to defend the system which his constituents supported and he thought to be right.

Brady is a Right-wing Conservative with libertarian instincts who came of age politically during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in the 1980s. He voted for Michael Howard in the 1997 leadership election and for David Davis in the two subsequent contests, although after his resignation from the front bench in no way did he seek to cause any further trouble for David Cameron, demonstrating that a politician with principles can still remain loyal to his party.

He emerged as the Right’s choice for the 1922 chairmanship earlier this year after several other potential candidates were either deemed ineffective or unwilling to concentrate their efforts on that role. 

His victory over the moderate Richard Ottaway for the post was not only a win for the Right, but an indication of the sense of youth that had been injected into the parliamentary party at the 2010 general election.

As 1922 Chairman he has continued to remain publicly silent about any misgivings he has about the direction of the party or the actions of the party leadership, preferring to communicate such concerns in private through his regular meetings with the Prime Minister.

But he is still a doughty defender of grammar schools, having founded and hosted parliamentary receptions for the Friends of Grammar Schools

– while still enjoying cordial relations with Education Secretary Michael Gove, who accepted his invitation to address his organsiation’s most recent event this past week.

He has, however, been an occasional rebel in the Commons since the Coalition Government took office, most recently sponsoring an amendment to the AV Referendum Bill seeking to allow all British citizens living overseas a vote and also defying the whips by supporting a move to reduce the size of the Government in line with the proposed reduction in the size of the House of Commons.

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