Andrew James Bridgen (born 28 October 1964) is a Conservative Party politician and businessman. Since May 2010 he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of North West Leicestershire. A prominent figure on the right of the party, he is a long-term critic of the European Union and supported Brexit in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. He is a vocal supporter of Eurosceptic pressure group Leave Means Leave. He was a prominent critic of Theresa May during her time as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.
|Member of Parliament |
for North West Leicestershire
|Assumed office |
6 May 2010
|Preceded by||David Taylor|
|Born||28 October 1964|
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England
|Alma mater||University of Nottingham|
Early life and career
Bridgen was born in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, on 28 October 1964. He attended Netherseal Junior School and then the state comprehensive school The Pingle School in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. He went on to study genetics and behaviour at the University of Nottingham, graduating with a degree in biological sciences.
After graduating, Bridgen began training as an officer in the Royal Marines but decided to not complete the course and returned home to help with the family market-gardening business. Alongside his brother Paul he diversified the business into the production of pre-washed vegetables, and they formed AB Produce in Measham in Leicestershire in 1988. Bridgen is a former winner of the Young Executive of the Year UK and Young Director of the Year (Midlands) Medium-sized business awards. Bridgen became the East Midlands chairman of the Institute of Directors.
In May 2009, he intervened in the "dirty tricks row" involving a councillor who had offered Conservative backing to ensure a village hall was built if an independent election candidate stood down. Bridgen blamed "intransigence of certain unelected individuals at the very top of the county council" rather than the individual councillors involved. Both Labour and Conservative council leaders criticised his intervention and the council solicitor wrote to ask for an explanation. A police investigation followed and Cllr Nicholas Rushton temporarily stood down. Rushton denied wrongdoing and went on to become leader of the county council.
Bridgen was elected as the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire at the 2010 general election, becoming the first Conservative MP for the area in thirteen years. The seat had been vacant since the previous MP, David Taylor, had died of a sudden heart attack on Boxing Day, 2009. Bridgen was re-elected at the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election.
In July 2010, Bridgen first became a member of the Regulatory Reform Select Committee, a committee he has continued to serve on throughout his parliamentary career. He was a member of the Advisory Panel to Professor Ragnar Löfstedt’s report on Health and Safety and has served on the Draft Deregulation Bill (Joint Committee) and Liaison Committee (Commons).
On 9 June 2011, allegations of sexual assault were made against Bridgen, leading to his arrest in London by the Metropolitan Police and subsequent release on bail. A week later the allegations were retracted as untrue, and police said no further action would be taken against Bridgen, or the woman concerned, Annabelle Fuller, a former employee of UKIP. In a statement, Bridgen expressed his frustration that "such a ludicrous, false and unsubstantiated allegation" had received so much attention.
In January 2013, Bridgen, interviewed on BBC Radio's PM programme, stated that good MPs were being put off by poor pay and were having to ask their families to make sacrifices. Bridgen stated he was one of the few MPs willing to speak publicly on the issue of MPs' low pay. It was reported that Bridgen received additional income from his family vegetable firm, and he was criticised by local Labour politicians for being 'out of touch'. In June 2015, following the announcement that MPs were to be awarded a 10% pay rise, Bridgen again spoke out, criticising wealthier Cabinet Ministers for publicly turning down the additional money, which he said he would take himself.
In August 2014, AB Produce, which Bridgen was director of, was warned by the Environment Agency that it could lose its licence if it does not remove a 'urine like' smell from two "lagoons" of putrid vegetable matter on the site. The smell had reportedly been a source of complaints from neighbours for several years, and following the enforcement action, the issue was resolved.
In 2015, Bridgen sold his constituency house in Appleby Magna for £2 million, under a government High Speed 2 (HS2) compensation scheme as the house is 100 feet (30 m) from the proposed route, as a consequence of his divorce proceedings. He was criticised by local campaigners for selling at the early stage under an "exceptional hardship scheme", but Bridgen argued he had lost more money than anyone else. In March 2017, Bridgen apologised for failing to declare at an HS2 debate that his home is being bought by the high-speed rail link. He made the apology in the House of Commons after being found to have breached the rules governing MPs’ interests following an investigation by the Commons standards watchdog. However, Bridgen argued that he had been a consistent critic of High Speed 2, casting doubt on the economic benefits associated with the proposals, and the costs of the programme regardless of his property interests.
Bridgen was criticised[by whom?] in May 2016 for claiming on expenses nearly £25,000 in a single year for staying in hotels in London. He stated that his use of hotels was cheaper than having a flat and was a short walk from Parliament when it finishes late at night. During this time, he did not allow staff to claim for expenses for hotel stays, saying "they come down and work for me two days in London, stay at their own expense down here, and then go back and then work in the constituency the rest of the time".[page needed]
In March 2018, Bridgen stated in Parliament that there were 'no rough sleepers' in North West Leicestershire. Mark Grant, the manager of Leicester-based charity Action Homeless, responded that despite what official figures show, North West Leicestershire was a part of the county where the charity had most people presenting from. He added: "We know rough sleepers from North West Leicestershire migrate to Leicester to get access to services there that aren't available where they are from." Bridgen disputed the response and pointed to Government investment in the area.
Bridgen has been accused by Pink News of making homophobic statements. He has also been accused of anti-semitic statements at various points in his Parliamentary career. He has denied each allegation. On 7 August 2018, Bridgen supported comments made by Boris Johnson, regarding the wearing of burkas by some Muslim women in Britain.
On 14 October 2018, on the Stephen Nolan Show on BBC 5 Live radio, Bridgen, during a discussion of Brexit, incorrectly said that he and any British citizen was entitled to an Irish passport as part of a special arrangement with the Republic of Ireland. According to Stephen Nolan, Bridgen then hung up the phone during the break for the news bulletin and then could not be contacted to clarify his confused remarks.
Bridgen endorsed Boris Johnson during the 2019 Conservative leadership election.
In November 2019, Bridgen apologised after defending Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments suggesting that Grenfell Tower fire victims should have concluded that the 'stay put' advice given by the London Fire Brigade was incorrect. Bridgen suggested on BBC Radio 4 that Rees-Mogg would have made a better decision than the authority figures who gave the flawed advice. Bridgen later said: "I do not want to add in any way to the pain that this tragic event has caused. I apologise."
Following a very serious injury to a constituent in July 2011, Bridgen called for legislation to ensure Britons travelling abroad have adequate medical insurance. Bridgen also sought to highlight the risks of head injuries associated with sporting injuries. He is a supporter of reform of the pub industry, supporting moves to introduce a Market Rent Option for tied tenant publicans. Bridgen is a supporter of the "Fair Deal For Your Local" campaign.
Bridgen forced a Government U-turn in 2013 over plans for military intervention in Syria after he organised a letter to the Prime Minister signed by 81 fellow Conservative MPs, demanding Parliament be given a vote on whether the UK should send military assistance to anti-government Syrian rebels. Bridgen later stated his support for air-strikes against ISIS terrorists in Iraq.
Bridgen successfully lobbied the Government to cut Air Passenger Duty for children in 2014, a move backed by travel operators and supported by a 2013 study report.
In 2014, Bridgen voted to recognise the State of Palestine. Bridgen asked: “Does my honorable Friend agree that, given that the political system of the world’s superpower and our great ally the United States is very susceptible to well-funded powerful lobbying groups and the power of the Jewish lobby in America, it falls to this country and to this House to be the good but critical friend that Israel needs, and this motion tonight just might lift that logjam on this very troubled area?”.
In 2014, Bridgen led calls to have non-payment of the TV licence fee made a civil rather than a criminal matter. The legislation in force "is effectively criminalising them for being poor", he told The Times and "most of those sent to prison as a result of non-payment are the elderly and women". The Government later adopted Bridgen's proposal, which was also supported by the Labour Party, though the BBC said the potential loss of £200m could lead to closure of channels.
Bridgen has joined fellow local Conservative MP Heather Wheeler in campaigning for the return of passenger rail services on the Burton to Leicester railway line – the Ivanhoe Line – and has campaigned for the electrification of the Midland Mainline.
Bridgen is a long-term critic of the European Union. In February 2016 he criticised the BBC for selecting pro-EU guests for the BBC Newsnight and BBC Radio 4 Today programmes. He also stated that the BBC should not claim that Britain enjoyed a special status as David Cameron's EU renegotiations had not changed anything. He supported Leave in the 2016 referendum, going on to back group Leave Means Leave after the Brexit vote, and signing a letter to the Prime Minister in September 2017. Bridgen was one of the 28 so called Tory "Brexit Spartans" who voted against Theresa May's Brexit deal all three times it was put to the House of Commons.
Relationship with other politicians
Bridgen was a critic of the former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. After calling for him to be replaced in 2013, Bridgen withdrew a letter of no confidence in 2014 after he failed to attract the support of enough colleagues to trigger a vote of no confidence. Three weeks before the EU referendum in 2016 he declared that Cameron's position was untenable and he would have to be replaced, possibly immediately after the vote.
In July 2018, Bridgen wrote a letter of no confidence in relation to Theresa May, who had replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister, in which he argued she should be replaced as leader of the Conservative Party as her "promises over leaving the EU are all a pretence and a charade intended to dupe the electorate which is an insult to their intelligence."
Bridgen raised concerns in 2010 to the Conservative whips' office about the behaviour of fellow Conservative MP Dan Poulter with women MPs. The Sunday Times published these allegations, that Poulter had put his hand up the skirts of at least three female MPs, during the MeToo scandal in late 2017, and in November 2017 Bridgen reported Poulter to the Conservative Party's newly established disciplinary committee. No female MP had made any complaint about Poulter, and he was subsequently cleared of inappropriate behaviour claims in March 2018. Poulter took legal action for libel against The Sunday Times, whose defence was that it was simply reporting accusations made by others against Poulter. However, the High Court ruled that the stories implied guilt of sexual assault, causing The Sunday Times to admit that the claims were false and it should not have published them, and paying substantial libel damages to Poulter.
Bridgen has been an outspoken critic of the former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. In March 2018 he suggested Bercow should resign, and also reported him to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, to investigate whether he had broken the MPs’ code of conduct. An inquiry into allegations that Bercow had bullied members of staff was subsequently blocked by MPs and he remained in post. Bridgen repeatedly called for disciplinary action and the resignation of Labour MP Keith Vaz over a range of different issues.
Bridgen married the Serbian opera singer Nevena Pavlovic in 2017. He was divorced from his first wife Jackie in 2012 and has two sons from the first marriage. Jackie was a Conservative councillor for the Oakthorpe and Donisthorpe ward of North West Leicestershire District Council from 2007 until losing her seat in 2011.
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