Nicholas Soames

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The Right Honourable
Sir Nicholas Soames
MP
Official portrait of Sir Nicholas Soames crop 2.jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
6 November 2003 – 10 May 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Bernard Jenkin
Succeeded by Michael Ancram
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
In office
14 June 1994 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Jeremy Hanley
Succeeded by John Reid
Member of Parliament
for Mid Sussex
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Tim Renton
Majority 19,673 (31.9%)
Member of Parliament
for Crawley
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)
Succeeded by Laura Moffatt
Personal details
Born Arthur Nicholas Winston Soames
(1948-02-12) 12 February 1948 (age 69)
Croydon, Surrey, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Catherine Weatherall
(m. 1981–88)

Serena Smith
(m. 1993)
Children 3
Alma mater Mons Officer Cadet School
Website Official website
Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1967–1975
Rank Second lieutenant
Service number 484270
Unit 11th Hussars
Royal Hussars

Sir Arthur Nicholas Winston Soames (born 12 February 1948), sometimes known as Nick Soames, is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Mid Sussex since 1997. He is a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill.

Soames was first elected to Parliament in 1983 for Crawley. He was Minister of State for the Armed Forces from 1994 to 1997 in the government of John Major. His main political interests are defence, international relations, rural affairs and industry.

Early life, education and military service

Soames was born in Croydon and is a grandson of the British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, the son of Lord and Lady Soames, and a great-nephew of the founders of the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell and Olave Baden-Powell. His brother is the industrialist Rupert Soames.

Simon Hoggart, writing in The Guardian, related an anecdote of Soames' childhood: "He gave me the true version of what I had always suspected was an apocryphal story. In or around 1953, when Soames was five, he didn't know how important his grandfather was until someone told him. So he walked up to the old man's bedroom, managed to get past the valets and the secretaries, and found him sitting up in bed. 'Is it true, grandpapa, that you are the greatest man in the world?' he asked. 'Yes I am,' said Churchill. 'Now bugger off.'"'[1]

After attending St. Aubyns Preparatory School in Sussex, Soames received his secondary education at Eton College. Later he studied at Mons Officer Cadet School before being commissioned into the 11th Hussars on 5 August 1967 on a Short Service Commission before serving in West Germany and Britain with the 11th Hussars and later the Royal Hussars.[2] Soames was transferred to Regular Army Reserve of Officers on 9 March 1970 before resigning his commission on 5 August 1975.[3][4]

Early career

In 1970, he was appointed Equerry to HRH The Prince of Wales; he has remained a close friend of the Prince ever since and publicly criticised Diana, Princess of Wales, during the couple's estrangement. When Diana first accused the Prince of Wales of adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles, Soames told the BBC that the accusation, and Diana's fear of being slandered by her husband's courtiers, stemmed merely from Diana's mental illness, and "the advanced stages of paranoia".[5] Charles later admitted his adultery and Soames apologised. When questioned by the inquest into the death of Diana, Soames said that he saw his job as "to speak up for the Prince of Wales". He denied threatening Diana, and warning her, "accidents happen" in the months before she died.[6]

In 1972, he left Kensington Palace and the army to work as a stockbroker. In 1974, he became a personal assistant; first to Sir James Goldsmith and then in 1976 to United States Senator Mark Hatfield, whose employ he left in 1978 to become a director of Bland Welch, Lloyd's Brokers. Between 1979–81, he was an assistant director of the Sedgwick Group.[citation needed] He fought Central Dunbartonshire in Scotland in 1979, where Labour's Hugh McCartney defeated him by 12,003 votes.

Parliamentary career

Soames was elected as the MP for Crawley at the 1983 general election. He sat for Crawley until the 1997 general election (when Labour defeated the Conservatives in Crawley). In the 1997 election, he retained the constituency of Mid Sussex for the Conservatives after Tim Renton stood down at the election, and Soames has remained the seat's MP since then.

He served as a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food between 1992 and 1994, as Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the Ministry of Defence under Prime Minister John Major between 1994 and 1997, and later as the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence from 2003 to 2005.

On 9 May 2005, shortly after Michael Howard announced his intention to resign as leader of the Conservative Party, Soames resigned from the shadow cabinet. He immediately ended speculation that he intended to stand for the post of leader, saying that he merely wanted to be free to think about, and to influence the future of the party. He added that he was interested in joining the executive of the 1922 Committee. He later announced his support for David Cameron.[7]

In one edition of The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, Mark Thomas investigated the practice of avoiding inheritance tax by declaring art, furniture, homes and land available for public viewing. After discovering that Soames was claiming tax relief on a "three-tier mahogany buffet with partially reeded slender balustrade upright supports" on this basis, but without making any arrangements for the furniture to be inspected by the public, Thomas invented a 'National Soames Day' on which hundreds of people made appointments to see the furniture.[8][9] Soames subsequently decided to pay the tax on the item and Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, changed the law.[citation needed] In 2015, Thomas told The Independent's Adam Jacques: "I try to find the good in my enemies. It's not unusual to be able to get on with people despite what they are doing being awful. The only person I have met who I considered to be without any redeeming features was […] Nicholas Soames. […] He was such a pantomime baddie."[9]

In November 2010, Soames told The Mail on Sunday newspaper that remarks about a royal wedding made by the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, were "extremely rude, not what one expects from a bishop."[10]

On 13 July 2011, Soames was sworn of the Privy Council.[11] He was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for political service.[12][13]

Soames was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 EU membership referendum.[14]

Allegations of sexism

According to the book Women in Parliament published in 2005, Soames has been named as the 'most sexist' MP, with several female MPs stating that he has made vulgar comments to them.[15] In other accusations of sexual harassment it has been alleged that Soames makes repeated cupping gestures with his hands, suggestive of female breasts, when women are trying to speak in parliament, in order to distract them.[16] He allegedly harassed Alastair Campbell by telephoning him and saying "you sex god, you Adonis, you the greatest of all great men". However, unknown to Soames, he was actually speaking to Campbell's young son.[17]

On 31 January 2017, Soames made 'woofing' noises at Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh when she was asking the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, a question in the House of Commons. Ahmed-Sheikh called a point of order to bring the speaker's attention to the noises.[18] John Bercow, the speaker, described the noises as "discourteous and that expression should not be used", and Soames was asked to apologise.[19] He did so, saying he was only offering her a "friendly canine salute" in reply to her "snapped" question.[18]

Aegis Defence Services

Soames is chairman of the private security contractor Aegis Defence Services and chairman of Framlington Second Dual Trust plc.[20][21] Aegis had a series of contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to provide guards to protect US military bases in Iraq from 2004 onwards. From 2011, the company broadened its recruitment to take in African countries, having previously employed people from the UK, the US and Nepal.

Contract documents say that the soldiers from Sierra Leone were paid $16 (£11) a day. A documentary, The Child Soldier’s New Job, broadcast in Denmark, alleges that the estimated 2,500 Sierra Leonean personnel who were recruited by Aegis and other private security companies to work in Iraq included former child soldiers.[22]

Political funding

Mid Sussex Conservative Constituency Association has received over £1 million in donations, with Soames receiving well over £100,000 from private military company Aegis Defence Services Ltd from 2010 onwards.[23] US multinational professional services, risk management and insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc has given Soames £518,069 since 2010 in remunerations for his services as an MP.[24] Soames has also received private donations from a variety of people, including £5,749 from Majlis As Shura, £10,000 from David Rowland, and £20,000 from Ann R. Said.[25]

Meeting with Robert Mugabe

In October 2017, Soames faced criticism following a meeting with Robert Mugabe while visiting Zimbabwe.[26] Zimbabwean media claimed that the visit was "part of a private initiative of friends of Zimbabwe in the British establishment" to normalise relations between the two countries, and quoted Mugabe as saying that Soames had carried messages of goodwill from both Lord Carrington (who had co-signed the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement on behalf of the British Government) and Prince Charles.[27] The Zimbabwean state-owned Herald asserted that "Sir Nicholas insisted on meeting President Mugabe in the full glare of publicity. He promised to publicise details of the meeting in the British media."

In response, Soames maintained that he had met Mugabe in a personal capacity, rather than as a representative of the UK government: he explained that his father Christopher Soames, who had overseen Zimbabwe's transition to independence, would not have forgiven him if he had not tried to "call on" the president.[26]

MP Kate Hoey, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, criticised the visit, stating that Soames' behaviour "pander(ed) to the vanity of a wily and ruthless dictator." She continued "(y)ou can't have a private visit which is then front page of the newspapers in Zimbabwe."[26][28]

Personal life

He has been married twice. His first marriage (4 June 1981 – 1988) was to Catherine Weatherall[29] (the sister of Isobel Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne). They have one son:

  • Arthur Harry David Soames (1985)

He married, secondly, Serena Smith (a niece of the Duchess of Grafton) on 21 December 1993. They have two children.

  • Isabella Soames (28 November 1996)
  • Christopher Soames (11 January 2001)

Driving offences

On 15 May 2008 Soames pleaded guilty to riding a quad bike on a public road without motor insurance. A photograph of Soames using the vehicle to pull a trailer carrying three children and a pregnant woman was taken from footage filmed by hunt saboteurs in Slaugham, West Sussex, on New Year's Day. It was given to the police and published by the Daily Mirror. Since he had several previous offences on his licence, he was disqualified from driving for two months, fined £200, and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and costs of £35 by Crawley magistrates.[30]

In 2012, he was disqualified from driving for two weeks for speeding at 51 mph in a 30 mph residential area in Handcross. Soames was also fined £666, plus £85 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.[31] The Argus, a Sussex paper, describes him as an 'anti-speed MP'.[32] According to the Argus, it was 'the third time he has been caught flouting traffic laws in four years'. After the ruling at Mid Sussex Magistrates' Court on 17 October 2012, the Mid Sussex Conservative MP told The Argus: "These things happen. Haven’t you ever gone over the speed limit?" The speeding incident angered Brake, a campaigning road safety charity, which said, "speed limits are in place for everyone’s safety, and it is particularly alarming to see a public figure like Nicholas Soames repeatedly flouting traffic laws and needlessly putting lives at risk. A two-week ban and a £666 fine is simply not enough, and we would like to see courts hand out tougher penalties to traffic offenders in order to create a real deterrent".[32]

Titles and styles

  • 1948–1978: Nicholas Soames, Esq
  • 1978–1983: The Honourable Nicholas Soames
  • 1983–2011: The Honourable Nicholas Soames MP
  • 2011–2014: The Right Honourable Nicholas Soames MP
  • 2014–present: The Right Honourable Sir Nicholas Soames MP

Ancestry

References

  1. ^ Hoggart, Simon (4 June 2001). "Hats off to Soames, Off Message but on Majestic Form". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ "No. 44430". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 October 1967. p. 11267. 
  3. ^ "No. 45055". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 March 1970. p. 2846. 
  4. ^ "No. 46651". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 August 1975. p. 9952. 
  5. ^ Christopher Wilson. The Windsor knot. Books.google.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Inquest into death of Princess Diana, scottbaker-inquests.gov.uk; accessed 16 June 2014.
  7. ^ Brogan, Benedict (29 August 2005). "Top Tories back Clarke as party's leader-in-waiting". Daily Mail. 
  8. ^ Cornock, David (31 October 2006). "[email protected] newslog". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Jacques, Adam (31 October 2015). "Mark Thomas interview: The social-activist comedian talks opera, charity shops, and Nicholas Soames". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  10. ^ "Bishop apologises for Facebook rant". BBC News. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Privy Council Office — Orders for 13 July 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  12. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b2. 
  13. ^ "Trio of MPs honoured in Queen's Birthday Honours List". 
  14. ^ Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. London. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  15. ^ Hoggart, Simon (28 April 2010). "Ferocious fight for fat toff who has heard it all before". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  16. ^ Cooke, Rachel (23 April 2007). "Oh babe, just look at us now". The Observer. London. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  17. ^ Assinder, Nick (9 July 2007). "Alastair Campbell". BBC News. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  18. ^ a b "Tory MP Soames sorry for 'woofing' at Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh". BBC News. 31 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Gill, Martha (31 January 2017). "Nicholas Soames Says He Made ‘Woof Woof’ Noises At Female MP As ‘Friendly Canine Salute’". Huffington Post UK. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 
  20. ^ "Management". Aegisworld.com. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  21. ^ "www.aegisworld.com". www.aegisworld.com. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  22. ^ Ross, Alice (17 April 2016). "UK firm 'employed former child soldiers' as mercenaries in Iraq". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  23. ^ "searchthemoney.com". Searchthemoney.com. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  24. ^ "searchthemoney.com". Searchthemoney.com. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  25. ^ Donations to Soames, Searchthemoney.com; accessed 16 June 2014.
  26. ^ a b c "Sir Nicholas Soames: Robert Mugabe meeting was 'purely personal'". BBC News. 9 October 2017. 
  27. ^ Share, Felex (6 October 2017). "President reflects on Soames visit". The Herald (Zimbabwe). Retrieved 10 October 2017. 
  28. ^ Thornycroft, Peta; Oliphant, Roland (6 October 2017). "Robert Mugabe claims thaw in relations with Britain after meeting with Sir Nicholas Soames". The Daily Telegraph. (subscription required)
  29. ^ "Capt Anthony Edward Weatherall 1924–2013". 
  30. ^ Macintyre, James (15 May 2008). "Illegal ride on a quad bike lands Soames with a driving ban". The Independent. London. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  31. ^ ""It won't affect me": Tory grandee's boast after he's banned after third speeding offence in four years". Daily Mirror. London. 27 October 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  32. ^ a b "'Anti-speed' Sussex MP tells of shame at totting ban". The Argus. Brighton. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 

External links

  • Sussex MP paid £220,000 for four extra jobs, theargus.co.uk; accessed 16 June 2014.
  • Nicholas Soames MP - official constituency website
  • Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
  • Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
  • Voting record at Public Whip
  • Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
  • Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
  • Articles authored at Journalisted
  • Soames' family details, ThePeerage.com; accessed 16 June 2014.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Crawley

19831997
Succeeded by
Laura Moffatt
Preceded by
Tim Renton
Member of Parliament
for Mid Sussex

1997–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jeremy Hanley
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
1994–1997
Succeeded by
John Reid
Preceded by
Bernard Jenkin
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
2003–2005
Succeeded by
Michael Ancram
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