Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

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Nick Herbert

Position: Home Office and Ministry of Justice 2010

Last Updated: Friday, December 3rd, 2010

The publication this week of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill ‐

legislating for Britain’s first democratically elected police commissioners from

May 2012 ‐ is the culmination of a number of years of work and campaigning by

Nick Herbert, now the Minister for Policing.

Back in 2005 the newly‐elected Herbert was a signatory to the original Douglas

Carswell/Dan Hannan‐inspired localist blueprint, Direct Democracy: An agenda

for a New Model Party, which proposed replacing police authorities with directly elected “Sheriffs” with the power to hire and fire Chief Constables, set targets for

their forces, produce their own policing plan and control their own budgets.

Two years later, and the idea had become official Tory policy, by that stage being

promoted by Herbert from the Opposition frontbench as shadow minister for

police reform no less.

Educated at Haileybury and Magdalen College, Cambridge, Herbert held a variety

of public affairs and think‐tank roles before entering Parliament in 2005.

Director of Political Affairs for what was then the British Field Sports Society

between 1992 and 1996, he played a leading role in the founding of the

Countryside Movement, which evolved to become what we now know as the

Countryside Alliance.

At the 1997 general election he stood for Parliament and (in his own words)

“swore then I would never do it again”, failing to take Berwick‐upon‐Tweed from

the Liberal Democrats.

With the European issue then looming large, he went to work as Chief Executive

of Business for Sterling and founded the No Campaign (against the euro), but did

not entirely stay away from the party political arena, running David Davis’s

unsuccessful bid for the Tory leadership in 2001.

It was after that that he co‐founded the think‐tank Reform with Andrew

Haldenby (also a veteran of the 2001 Davis leadership campaign) and gained a

reputation in Westminster for being a radical thinker, promoting a low tax

economy, localism, and choice in public services.

Indeed, just weeks before his selection as candidate for Arundel and South

Downs on the eve of the 2005 general election, he was by no means a loyal

adherent to the Conservative Party line: he was accusing all the major parties in

“the People’s Republic of Britain” of being “gripped by a national spendfest” in an

article for The Spectator, calling for restraint in the growth of public spending

and explicitly arguing in favour of a flat tax.

However, Herbert’s career took a surprise turn when (fellow Magdalen alumnus)

Arundel MP Howard Flight was sacked as a candidate by Michael Howard for

overstepping the party line on taxation and spending, and he was invited to put

his name forward for the safe seat. He won the nomination and there was a cruel

irony for Flight in the fact that Arundel Tories appeared to choose an even more

radical candidate in Herbert.

On his arrival at the Commons, Herbert bagged a place on the Home Affairs

committee but did not remain there for long, with David Davis ‐ fresh from his

second unsuccessful leadership bid ‐ recruiting him to his shadow home affairs

team. Apart from pursuing the policy of elected police commissioners at that

juncture, he also scored a success in helping force then Home Secretary John

Reid to dump government plans for police force mergers.

After a successful eighteen months as a junior spokesman, David Cameron

promoted him to the Shadow Cabinet in the summer of 2007 as shadow Justice

secretary, and then in January 2009 moved him again to be shadow Defra

secretary, where he was able to put his interest and expertise in rural affairs to

good use.

Had the Conservatives achieved a majority at the 2010 general election, Herbert

would surely have found himself in the Cabinet. However, with the Coalition

requiring an influx of Lib Dems to the top table, Herbert was one of the more

junior shadow cabinet members who had to take a step down the ladder to make

way for others from the Liberal Democrats.

However, he was compensated by being made a Privy Counsellor and was

returned to that policing brief (working jointly at the Home Office and Justice

Department), which he had shadowed with such verve in opposition, allowing

him to put into law those proposals on which he had previously worked.

He does remains very ambitious, however, and observers suggest that he does

not have the best of working relationships with Home Secretary Theresa May,

retaining a sense of frustration that she finds herself in the Cabinet rather than

him. But if, as expected, he successfully pilots the Police Reform Bill through

Parliament and onto the statute book, his ambition for a Cabinet post for real

ought in time to be realised.

The second openly gay Conservative to be elected to the Commons, he entered a

civil partnership with his long term partner, Jason Eades, in January 2009 and

attended this year’s EuroPride in Warsaw on behalf of the Conservative Party.

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