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James Cleverly
Official portrait, 2023
Home Secretary
Assumed office
13 November 2023
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
Preceded bySuella Braverman
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
In office
6 September 2022 – 13 November 2023
Prime Minister
Preceded byLiz Truss
Succeeded byDavid Cameron
Secretary of State for Education
In office
7 July 2022 – 6 September 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byMichelle Donelan
Succeeded byKit Malthouse
Minister without Portfolio
In office
24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byBrandon Lewis
Succeeded byAmanda Milling
Junior ministerial offices
Minister of State for Europe and North America
In office
8 February 2022 – 7 July 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byChris Heaton-Harris[a]
Succeeded byGraham Stuart[b]
Minister of State for Middle East, North Africa and North America[c]
In office
13 February 2020 – 8 February 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byAndrew Murrison
Succeeded byAmanda Milling[d]
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
In office
4 April 2019 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byChris Heaton-Harris
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Party political offices
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Serving with Ben Elliot
LeaderBoris Johnson
Preceded byBrandon Lewis
Succeeded byAmanda Milling
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
8 January 2018 – 4 April 2019
LeaderTheresa May
Preceded byAmanda Sater
Succeeded byHelen Whately
Member of Parliament
for Braintree
In office
7 May 2015 – 30 May 2024
Preceded byBrooks Newmark
Majority24,673 (48.9%)
Leader of the Conservative Party
in the London Assembly
In office
2011–2012
Preceded byRoger Evans
Succeeded byAndrew Boff
Member of the London Assembly
for Bexley and Bromley
In office
4 May 2008 – 5 May 2016
Preceded byBob Neill
Succeeded byGareth Bacon
Personal details
Born
James Spencer Cleverly

(1969-09-04) 4 September 1969 (age 54)
Lewisham, London, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse
Susannah Sparks
(m. 2000)
Children2
ResidenceBlackheath, London
Alma materEaling College of Higher Education
Occupation
Signature
Websitecleverly4braintree.com
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army (Reserve)
Years of service1989–present
RankLieutenant colonel
UnitRoyal Artillery

James Spencer Cleverly (born 4 September 1969) is a British politician and Army Reserve officer who has served as Home Secretary since November 2023. A member of the Conservative Party, he served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Braintree in Essex from 2015 to 2024. He previously served as Foreign Secretary from 2022 to 2023, Education Secretary from July to September 2022, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party alongside Ben Elliot from 2019 to 2020, and in other junior ministerial positions.

Cleverly advocated a vote for Brexit in the 2016 EU membership referendum. In the second May ministry, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party from 2018 to 2019 and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from April to July 2019. When Boris Johnson was appointed prime minister in July 2019, Cleverly was promoted to the Cabinet as minister without portfolio, serving as Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party alongside Ben Elliot from 2019 to 2020. Cleverly was demoted from the Cabinet in the 2020 ministerial reshuffle and served as a junior Foreign Office minister from February 2020 until the July 2022 government crisis, when he was appointed to succeed Michelle Donelan as Secretary of State for Education.

In September 2022, he was appointed foreign secretary by then–Prime Minister Liz Truss, making him the first British foreign secretary of African heritage. Retained as foreign secretary when Rishi Sunak became prime minister in October 2022, Cleverly was then appointed home secretary in the November 2023 cabinet reshuffle, being succeeded by former prime minister David Cameron. As Home Secretary, Cleverly has committed to maintaining the Rwanda asylum plan and has introduced a plan to substantially reduce legal migration to the UK by raising the threshold for family visas.

Early life and education

James Spencer Cleverly was born on 4 September 1969 in Lewisham, London, to James Philip and Evelyn Suna Cleverly.[1] His father is English and worked as a surveyor and his Sierra Leonean mother worked as a midwife.[2] He was privately educated at Riverston School and Colfe's School, both in Lee, London. He pursued hospitality management studies at Ealing College of Higher Education (now University of West London) graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991.[3][4]

After graduation, Cleverly worked for publishing company Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen, and joined Informa as international sales manager in 2002. In 2004, he joined Crimson Publishing as an advertising manager. He became online commercial manager for Caspian Publishing in 2006. The following year, he co-founded web publishing company Point and Fire.[1][3]

Military service

Cleverly's initial training at Sandhurst was curtailed by a leg injury sustained in 1989. On 6 October 1991, he was commissioned into the Army Reserve, as a second lieutenant (acting).[5] In January 1993, his commission was confirmed and he was appointed substantive second lieutenant.[6] Cleverly was promoted to lieutenant on 6 October 1993,[7] to captain on 26 May 1998,[8] and to major on 1 November 2003.[9] Until 2005, he was Battery Commander of 266 (Para) Battery Royal Artillery (Volunteers).[10]

Cleverly was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 March 2015.[11] He currently serves with National Reserve Headquarters, Royal Artillery, working as a Staff Officer in 1st (UK) Armoured Division.[12]

Political career

London Assembly

In March 2007, Cleverly was selected as the Conservative Party candidate for the Bexley and Bromley constituency of the London Assembly. The London Assembly election was held on 1 May with the count and declaration on 2 May, where he received 105,162 votes (52.6% of the vote) and a majority of 75,237.[13]

In January 2009, Cleverly was appointed as the Mayor of London's youth ambassador, a newly created role which was seen as being a replacement post for the deputy mayor for young people, a post left vacant after the resignation of Ray Lewis. The creation of the role caused some controversy as it was not filled by a mayoral appointment but by a member of the Assembly whose formal role was to scrutinise the Mayor. The decision was defended because of the precedent set by the appointment of Kit Malthouse as Deputy Mayor for Policing.[14]

In February 2010, Cleverly was appointed as the chairman of the London Waste and Recycling Board, replacing Boris Johnson who had stood down.[15]

In August 2010, Cleverly posted a tweet saying: "We may be coalition partners but it doesn't stop me thinking Simon Hughes is a dick," in response to a suggestion by Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, that backbench MPs should be able to veto Coalition policies.[16] He later apologised.[17]

In November 2010, Cleverly was re-selected to be the Conservative candidate for Bexley and Bromley at the 2012 London Assembly election, going on to win the seat with 88,482 votes (once again 52.6% of the votes) and a majority of 47,768.[18] After the defeat of Brian Coleman at the election, Cleverly was appointed to the chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.

House of Commons

In January 2015, Cleverly was selected to be the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Braintree, after the sitting Conservative MP Brooks Newmark stood down following controversy over sending sexually suggestive messages to an undercover reporter.[19] His selection came after the initial selection process was quietly suspended by Conservative Campaign Headquarters, after the local party chose someone not on the approved candidates list and was told to "think again".[20]

At the 2015 general election, Cleverly was elected to Parliament as MP for Braintree, winning 53.8% of the vote and a majority of 17,610.[21] Following the election, Cleverly did not defend his seat at the 2016 London Assembly election.[22]

Official portraits of Cleverly
as a Member of Parliament
2017
2020

In November 2015, Cleverly was criticised for pushing through the closure of 10 fire stations in London after the death of an elderly man in Camden following delays in the arrival of fire crews. In response, Cleverly said: "It is impossible for them to say that with certainty. I think it would be much wiser for the FBU to wait for the details of that fire investigation to come out before they start making these opportunistic allegations."[23]

In January 2016, the Labour Party proposed an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill 2016[24] that would have required private landlords to make homes which they put up for rent "fit for human habitation". According to Parliament's register of interests, Cleverly was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment and who personally derived an income from renting out property. The Conservative Government had responded to the amendment by saying that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.[25]

In March 2016, Cleverly was asked to step down as patron of Advocacy for All, a charity supporting disadvantaged people in South East England. The charity felt he was no longer a suitable person for the role, given that he had voted to cut Employment and Support Allowance (the benefit paid to disabled people who are unable to work).[26][27]

Cleverly advocated voting for Brexit in the 2016 EU membership referendum.[28]

At the 2017 general election, Cleverly was re-elected with an increased vote share of 62.8% and an increased majority of 18,422.[29]

In January 2018 he was appointed as a deputy chairman of the Conservative Party[30] before becoming a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union in April 2019.

Cleverly as Minister of State for Middle East & North Africa in 2020.

In October 2018, Cleverly defended Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey over potentially Islamophobic and Hinduphobic comments made in a pamphlet and suggested that black boys were drifting into crime as a result of learning more about faiths other than "their own Christian culture".[31]

On 29 May 2019, Cleverly announced he was standing to replace Theresa May in the 2019 Conservative leadership election,[32] before withdrawing from the race on 4 June 2019.[33]

Following the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, Cleverly was appointed Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, serving alongside Ben Elliot.

At the 2019 general election, Cleverly was again re-elected with an increased vote share of 67.5% and an increased majority of 24,673.[34][35]

In the 2020 cabinet reshuffle, Cleverly was removed from Johnson's cabinet and appointed Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa. He became Minister of State for Middle East, North Africa and North America in December 2021, before being appointed Minister of State for Europe and North America in February 2022.

In September 2020, he expressed concern about a "looming" famine in Yemen.[36] In March 2021, Cleverly described the situation in Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.[37] In March 2022, he said that attempts to compare Saudi Arabia to Russia were "ridiculously distasteful", describing Saudi Arabia as an "incredibly influential country in the region" and a "significant oil and gas producer."[38]

On 7 July 2022, Cleverly succeeded Michelle Donelan as Secretary of State for Education, a post that he held for almost two months.[39]

Foreign Secretary

Cleverly receiving a guard of honour as Foreign Secretary at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, 2023

Cleverly was promoted to the position Foreign Secretary by incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss on 6 September 2022.

Cleverly attended the UN Security Council meeting on 22 September, where he called on other countries to reject the annexation referendums due to take place in Russian-occupied areas in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.[40]

On 20 October 2022, he announced that the United Kingdom would pursue sanctions against Iran for supplying drones to attack civilian targets in Ukraine. Cleverly stated that "Iran cannot be allowed to violate UN resolutions".[41]

Cleverly endorsed former Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the October 2022 Conservative Party leadership election. As Johnson ended up not standing, Cleverly then endorsed Rishi Sunak.[42] Sunak re-appointed him to his cabinet as Foreign Secretary on 25 October 2022.

Cleverly with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 8 December 2022

In October 2022, due to doubts raised that British homosexual football fans would be safe at the 2022 Football World Cup taking place in Qatar, Cleverly suggested that they should show "a little bit of flex and compromise",[43] adding that he thought it was "important when you're a visitor to a country that you respect the culture of your host nation." He described Qatar as "an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own [those of Britain]".[44] Labour called his advice "shockingly tone-deaf",[45] due to the fact that gay activity is illegal in Qatar and that Cleverly had known that if gay people expressed their homosexuality openly in Qatar they would be arrested. Earlier in 2022, LGBT organisations stated that "progress has been slow" in attempting to ensure the safety of LGBT football fans with FIFA in Qatar – and additionally that reassurances from Qatar had "not been adequate".[46] In Qatar sex between men carries a penalty of up to 7 years in prison.[44]

Cleverly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, 11 September 2023

In May 2022, the country's emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said that he believed criticism about Qatar being chosen to host the World Cup came from "people who cannot accept the idea that an Arab Muslim country would host a tournament like the World Cup".[44][47] Sunak's spokesperson distanced themselves from Cleverly's comments, saying that fans should not have to "compromise who they are", as well as that "Qatar's policies are not those of the UK Government and not ones we would endorse".[48]

Later, in November 2022, Cleverly stated that his actions were "about ensuring that the English and Welsh fans going over to enjoy the football were safe and happy and that they enjoyed themselves whilst watching the tournament."[49]

In December 2022, despite human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia, Cleverly called Saudi Arabia a strategic partner.[50] In the same month, Cleverly met his Norwegian counterpart, Anniken Huitfeldt, to discuss continued military cooperation and attended the annual Christmas tree lighting.[51]

Cleverly in Washington DC with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in 2023

In January 2023, Cleverly again met Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, in Washington, DC to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, recent events in Iran following the anti-regime protests occurring there among other issues, as well as to reaffirm the UK's special relationship with the United States.[52]

Cleverly was criticised by some Conservative MPs, including Liz Truss, for refusing to reclassify China as a "threat" in response to the Chinese Government's aggressive foreign policy and its human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim community.[53] He called China a potential "partner for good".[54]

On 19 July 2023, Cleverly made a public statement following his being mooted as a possible successor to the departing Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace. Cleverly asked Prime Minister Sunak to leave him in his current position, because he said he really likes the job. He stated that if he was removed from his post, "you will see nail marks on the parquet floor in my office".[55]

In August 2023, Cleverly made his first visit to China as the first UK Government minister to visit the country since 2018.[56] The trip was reportedly to promote bilateral trade and climate change policy and challenge China's response to the Russo-Ukrainian War.[57][58]

Cleverly with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, 13 September 2023

On 13 September 2023, he met Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara and stated that Turkey is an "indispensable partner" to the UK and "has truly significant commitments to NATO."[59]

Cleverly expressed support for Israel during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war. On 11 October 2023, he visited Israel "to show solidarity to Israeli people".[60] He rejected calls for a ceasefire but supported "humanitarian pauses" to provide aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip.[61]

Home Secretary

Cleverly with Dutch Minister for Migration Eric van der Burg in March 2024

In Sunak's cabinet reshuffle on 13 November 2023, Cleverly was appointed Home Secretary, succeeding Suella Braverman.[62][63]

On 22 November 2023, Cleverly was accused by Labour MP Alex Cunningham of calling Cunningham's Stockton North constituency a "shithole" in response to a question in the House of Commons; Cleverly denied the allegation, but apologised for using "unparliamentary language", which he said had instead been used to describe Cunningham himself.[64]

On 23 December 2023, Cleverly faced calls to resign for joking about spiking his wife's drink with Rohypnol, a date rape drug.[65] A spokesperson said that Cleverly "apologise[d]" for what he had intended "to be an ironic joke".[66]

Personal life

Cleverly married Susannah Sparks in 2000; the couple have two sons.[1] Cleverly lives in Blackheath, Southeast London.[67] His cousin Chris Cleverly is a lawyer and businessman.[68] Cleverly is a fan of the miniature wargame Warhammer 40,000; he has a private YouTube channel dedicated to painting the game's miniatures.[69] He is atheist.[70]

Honours and decorations

Cleverly was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (TD) for 12 years' commissioned service in the Territorial Army in January 2012,[71][72] as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012,[73] the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in 2022 and the King Charles III Coronation Medal in 2023.

He was sworn of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 8 October 2019 at Buckingham Palace as part of his appointment as Minister without portfolio and Conservative Party Chairman in the Johnson ministry. Membership of the Privy Council affords the honorary prefix "the Right Honourable" for life.[74]

Ribbon Description Notes
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
  • 2002
  • UK version of this medal
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2012
  • UK version of this medal
Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal
  • 2022
  • UK version of this medal
King Charles III Coronation Medal
  • 2023
  • UK version of this medal
Efficiency Decoration (TD)
Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VR)
  • 10 years Commissioned Service in the Territorial Army/Army Reserves

Notes

  1. ^ As Minister of State for Europe; Cleverly retained responsibility for North America
  2. ^ As Minister of State for Europe. Rehman Chishti assumed responsibility for North America.
  3. ^ Jointly with the Department for International Development until September 2020; Middle East and North Africa until December 2021.
  4. ^ As Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East. The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon assumed responsibility for North Africa; Cleverly retained responsibility for North America

References

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Civic offices Preceded byBrian Coleman Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority 2012–2016 Succeeded byFiona Twycross Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byBrooks Newmark Member of Parliamentfor Braintree 2015–present Incumbent Political offices Preceded byChris Heaton-Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 2019 Position abolished Preceded byBrandon Lewis Minister without portfolio 2019–2020 Succeeded byAmanda Milling Preceded byAndrew Murrison Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa 2020–2021 Succeeded byHimselfas Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa and North America Preceded byHimselfas Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa Minister of State for Middle East, North Africa and North America 2021–2022 Succeeded byAmanda Millingas Minister of State for Asia and the Middle EastThe Lord Ahmad of Wimbledonas Minister of State for South and Central Asia, North Africa, United Nations and the Commonwealth Preceded byChris Heaton-Harrisas Minister of State for Europe Minister of State for Europe and North America 2022 Succeeded byGraham Stuartas Minister of State for Europe Preceded byMichelle Donelan Secretary of State for Education 2022 Succeeded byKit Malthouse Preceded byLiz Truss Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 2022–2023 Succeeded byDavid Cameron Preceded bySuella Braverman Home Secretary 2023– Incumbent Party political offices Preceded byAmanda Sater Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party 2018–2019 Succeeded byHelen Whately Preceded byBrandon Lewis Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party 2019–2020 Served alongside: Ben Elliot Succeeded byAmanda MillingBen Elliot