Robert Halfon

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The Right Honourable
Robert Halfon
Official portrait of Robert Halfon crop 2.jpg
Chair of the Education Select Committee
Assumed office
12 July 2017
Preceded by Neil Carmichael
Minister of State for Skills
In office
17 July 2016 – 12 June 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May
Preceded by Nick Boles
Succeeded by Anne Milton
Minister without Portfolio
In office
11 May 2015 – 17 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Grant Shapps
Succeeded by Brandon Lewis (2018)
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 May 2015 – 17 July 2016
Leader David Cameron
Theresa May
Preceded by Sarah Newton
Succeeded by Anthea McIntyre
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
18 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Rob Wilson
Succeeded by Chris Skidmore
Member of Parliament
for Harlow
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Bill Rammell
Majority 7,031 (15.6%)
Personal details
Born Robert Henry Halfon
(1969-03-22) 22 March 1969 (age 49)
Westminster, London, England[1]
Political party Conservative
Domestic partner Vanda Colombo
Alma mater University of Exeter
Website Official website

Robert Henry Halfon MP (/ˈhælfɒn/) (born 22 March 1969) is a British Conservative Party politician who served as Minister of State for Education between 2016 and 2017, and as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Harlow since 2010. He was re-elected with an increased majority of 8,350 in 2015,[2] and a reduced majority of 7,031 in 2017.

Between May 2015 and July 2016 Halfon served as Minister without Portfolio (attending Cabinet)[3] and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.[4] From July 2016 to June 2017 he was Minister of State at the Department for Education.[5] Since July 2017 Halfon has been the Chair of the Education Committee.[6]

Early life

Halfon was born to a British Jewish family living in Hampstead, London.[7][8] His grandfather was an Italian Jew, living in Libya until forced to leave in 1968, after which he joined his son who had already moved to England.[9] Halfon was born with a moderate version of spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, and underwent several major operations as a child, causing osteoarthritis in his early thirties.[10]

He was educated at Highgate School, an independent school in London. He attended the University of Exeter, where he read for a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics before a Master of Arts in Russian and East European politics. Along with David Burrowes, Sajid Javid and Tim Montgomerie, he took over Exeter University's Conservative Association, turning Conservative Future from social to political activities.[8] At Exeter he took the issue of compulsory membership of the National Union of Students to the European Human Rights Court, where he won.[10]

Political career

Halfon worked as chief of staff for the Conservative MP Oliver Letwin before becoming political director for Conservative Friends of Israel. He contested the Harlow seat in the 2001 and 2005 general elections, losing by just 97 votes on the second occasion.[11]

His third run for Harlow was successful and after the 2010 general election, he was elected to the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs.[12] He delivered his maiden speech in the House on 2 June 2010.[13] He has been a member of the Public Administration Select Committee since 2010. On 19 July 2010 he hosted the launch of the Friends of Israel Initiative at the House of Commons.[14][15]

On 18 July 2014 he was chosen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to be his Parliamentary Private Secretary.[16] Announcing the appointment, Osborne described Halfon as "a brilliant campaigner".[17]

Trade unions

Halfon is a member of Prospect[18] and a campaigner for Conservative supporters to become more involved in trade unions.[19][20] In 2012, he published a pamphlet through the thinktank Demos called Stop the Union Bashing: Why Conservatives Should Embrace the Trade Union Movement, which relayed the history of trade unionism in the Conservative Party, and called for these links to be revived.[21]

'Petrol Promise'

After winning his seat, Halfon founded the Petrol Promise campaign,[22] an online website and petition calling for lower fuel tax and an official inquiry into the oil market due to the suspected manipulation of petrol prices.[23] He is a supporter of the FairFuelUK[24] pressure group and has raised the issue of cheaper petrol in Parliament. He also presented a petition calling for an inquiry into price-fixing at the Office of Fair Trading signed by 30,000 motorists in 2013.[25] This led to Chancellor George Osborne calling him a "champion of the people he represents".[26] He won The Spectator's Campaigner of the Year Award in 2013 for his work fighting to keep petrol duty low.[27]


Halfon is a supporter of apprenticeships, and campaigned for a new university technical college to be built in Harlow, which was to open in September 2014.[28] He set up the Parliamentary Academy, which encourages MPs to employ apprentices in Parliament.[29] He had the first MP's apprentice in the House of Commons, and as of 2013 was on his third apprentice, who came from Harlow College.[30] For his work on apprenticeships, Robert Halfon was also named Avanta's Politician of the Year in 2013.[31]

Cost of living

Halfon has worked against utility companies making big profits. In 2013 he published a study of water companies in the Eastern region examining their profits, and called for an inquiry.[32] He has called for a windfall tax to be imposed on energy companies who are found to be unnecessarily putting up prices to customers.[33]

Halfon has talked about the need to reduce tax for workers, arguing that a near living wage could be achieved if the Government reintroduced the 10p band of income tax or increased the National Insurance threshold, citing this as an alternative to the living wage which he says could damage small, local businesses.[34]

Alternative medicine

Halfon has signed several early day motions in support of National Health Service funding for homeopathy sponsored by Conservative MP David Tredinnick.[35] Although Halfon signed these motions in 2010, he has since campaigned no further on these issues.

UK university donations

Halfon has been critical of donations received by UK universities from abroad, in particular the London School of Economics and Political Science.[36]

2017 Parliamentary assistant undercover recording scandal

In January 2017, Halfon`s former assistant (Ms. Maria Strizzolo[37]) was caught on camera in a pub drinking with former Israeli Embassy staffer Shai Masot, where he made suggestions as to which Member of Parliament his office would like to "take down". Immediately after reports from the documentary were carried by UK news networks, censure was attempted. The Qatar-based news media outlet was reported to Ofcom in January 2017, following an exposé about Israeli diplomatic corp irregularities and influence peddling amongst political and student groups in the UK.[38][39] After investigations exceeding eight months, Ofcom reported that Al Jazeera was in line with journalism standards.[40]

Call for temporary ban on bouncy castles

In July 2018, following the deaths of two children while playing on bouncy castles, Halfon called for an "urgent investigation" into the regulation of the inflatables. He argued that 'There should be a temporary ban on bouncy castles in public areas until we can ensure they are safe'. Earlier, in 2016, a seven-year-old girl died after a bouncy castle broke free from its moorings in Halfon's constituency of Harlow.[41]


General Election 2017: Harlow[42]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Robert Halfon 24,230 54.0 +5.2
Labour Phil Waite 17,199 38.3 +8.4
UKIP Mark Gough 1,787 4.0 −12.3
Liberal Democrat Geoffrey Seef 970 2.2 +0.1
Green Hannah Clare 660 1.5 −0.7
Majority 7,031 15.6 −3.3
Turnout 44,846 66.2 +1.1
Conservative hold Swing −1.6
General Election 2015: Harlow[43]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Robert Halfon 21,623 48.9 +4.0
Labour Suzy Stride 13,273 30.0 −3.7
UKIP Sam Stopplecamp 7,208 16.3 +12.7
Green Murray Sackwild 954 2.2 N/A
Liberal Democrat Geoffrey Seeff 904 2.0 −11.6
TUSC David Brown 174 0.4 N/A
English Democrat Eddy Butler 115 0.3 N/A
Majority 8,350 18.9 +7.7
Turnout 44,251 65.1 ±0.0
Conservative hold Swing +3.9
General Election 2010: Harlow[44]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Robert Halfon 19,691 44.9% +4.1
Labour Bill Rammell 14,766 33.7% -7.7
Liberal Democrat David White 5,990 13.7% +0.7
BNP Eddy Butler 1,739 4.0% N/A
UKIP John Croft 1,591 3.6% +1.1
Christian Oluyemi Adeeko 101 0.2 +0.2
Majority 4,925 11.2
Turnout 43,878 65.1 +2.7
Conservative gain from Labour Swing +5.9%
General Election 2005: Harlow
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Bill Rammell 16,453 41.4 -6.4
Conservative Robert Halfon 16,356 41.2 +6.4
Liberal Democrat Lorna Spenceley 5,002 12.6 -0.8
UKIP John Felgate 981 2.5 -0.5
Veritas Anthony Bennett 941 2.4 +2.4
Majority 97 0.2
Turnout 39,733 62.6 +2.9
Labour hold Swing -6.4%
General Election 2001: Harlow
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Bill Rammell 19,169 47.8 -6.3
Conservative Robert Halfon 13,941 34.8 +2.7
Liberal Democrat Lorna Spenceley 5,381 13.4 +4.0
UKIP Tony Bennett 1,223 3.0 +2.3
Socialist Alliance John Hobbs 401 1.0 N/A
Majority 5,228 13.0
Turnout 40,115 59.7 -14.6
Labour hold Swing

Personal life

Halfon's partner, Vanda Colombo, is Brazilian.[45] Halfon supports Chelsea F.C.[46] and is a member of the M.C.C.[citation needed]

In 2015 he admitted an affair after he was warned that a Conservative aide was trying to blackmail him over a relationship with a party activist.[47] He also came under fire from The Guardian and The Mirror for claiming £30,000 in expenses to meet his lover.[48]


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  2. ^ Gardner, Gemma; Mata, William (8 May 2015). "Record-breaking victory for conservative Robert Halfon". Harlow Star. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Ministerial appointments". Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Privy Council Orders of 14 May 2015" (PDF). Privy Council Office. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  5. ^ [1] Evening Standard (12 June 2017). Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Robert Halfon elected as Chair - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. 
  7. ^ Jessica Elgot (14 May 2010). "New Jewish ministers and the Miliband rivalry". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Michael Mosbacher (April 2014). "Underrated: Robert Halfon". Standpoint. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Halfon, Robert (28 August 2011). "You CAN drop democracy from a B-52 bomber... and how I wish my grandfather had lived to see Gaddafi's demise". Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Janet Murray (9 November 2011). "Robert Halfon ~ his story". FE Week. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Leon Symons (27 May 2010). "1922 Committee success for Halfon". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "House of Commons Debates 02 June 2010 - Education and Health". Hansard. London. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Friends of Israel Initiative was launched to a rapturous reception at the British Parliament on Monday, July 19". Friends of Israel Initiative. 19 July 2010. Archived from the original on 31 July 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010. 
  15. ^ "Friends of Israel Initiative - speeches". Henry Jackson Society. 19 July 2010. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010. 
  16. ^ "Harlow Star". Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Twitter - George Osborne". Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "ConservativeHome comment". Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  20. ^ "Rob's Blog: Conservatives and Trade Unions". Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  21. ^ Halfon, Robert. "Stop the Union Bashing". Demos. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "Petrol Promise campaign". 
  23. ^ "Are Retailers Just IGNORING an Oil Price Fall? -". 
  24. ^ "Fair Fuel UK campaign". 
  26. ^ Osborne, George. "Rt Hon". Hansard. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  27. ^ Payne, Sebastien. "Parliamentarian of Year Awards 2013: the winners". The Spectator. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  28. ^ Harlow College. "New University Technical College for Harlow". Harlow College. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  29. ^ Summers, Nick. "FE Week visits parliament to meet the apprentices working in MP's offices". FE Week. Archived from the original on 24 April 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  30. ^ Harlow College. "You're Hired!". Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  31. ^ "Training provider names Robert Halfon as their politician of the year". Your Harlow. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  32. ^ "Water firms in East of England 'rip off' customers, claims MP". BBC News. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  33. ^ "Robert Halfon: Energy windfall tax the right thing to do". Politics Home. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  34. ^ Halfon, Robert. "Robert Halfon MP: How Conservatives should champion the living wage". Conservative Home. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  35. ^ Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion #342 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy". 
  36. ^ Young, Alexander (10 January 2011). "Conservative MP decries LSE's "blood money"". Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. 
  37. ^ "Maria Strizzolo :Written question - 59731". UK Parliament. 
  38. ^ "Al Jazeera: Israel seeks to shut offices and take network off air". BBC News. 6 August 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  39. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (12 January 2017). "Israel embassy scandal: Shai Masot resigns after discussing 'take down' of pro-Palestinian British politicians". The Independent. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  40. ^ Ruddick, Graham (9 October 2017). "Ofcom clears al-Jazeera of antisemitism in exposé of Israeli official". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  41. ^ "Death prompts bouncy castle ban plea". BBC News. 2018-07-02. Retrieved 2018-07-02. 
  42. ^ "Harlow Parliamentary constituency". BBC News. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  43. ^ "Harlow Parliamentary constituency". BBC News. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  44. ^ Statement of Persons Nominated Harlow Council
  45. ^ Doreen Wachmann (2011). "The Tories find new Israel hero in Robert". Jewish Telegraph. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  46. ^ David Wilkes, Jason Groves (12 May 2015). "White van Tory who forced cut in fuel duty: Cameron rewards campaigning MP with place in the Cabinet". Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  47. ^ Mason, Rowena (16 November 2015). "Tory minister Robert Halfon admits cheating on partner amid blackmail claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  48. ^ Halliday, Josh (22 November 2015). "Tory minister claimed expenses for room at club where he met lover". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bill Rammell
Member of Parliament
for Harlow

Political offices
Preceded by
Grant Shapps
Minister without Portfolio
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