James Wharton, Baron Wharton of Yarm


James Stephen Wharton, Baron Wharton of Yarm (born 16 February 1984) is a British Conservative Party politician. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for his home constituency of Stockton South from the 2010 general election, until the 2017 general election.[1] Wharton was appointed Minister for the Northern Powerhouse after his re-election in 2015 and moved to a ministerial position in the Department for International Development by Theresa May in 2016. In September 2020, he took his seat as a member of the House of Lords, taking the title Baron Wharton of Yarm.


The Lord Wharton of Yarm
Wharton in 2016
Chair of the Office for Students
Assumed office
1 April 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byMichael Barber
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development
In office
17 July 2016  8 June 2017
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byNick Hurd
Succeeded byZac Goldsmith (2019)
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Growth and Northern Powerhouse
In office
11 May 2015  17 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byPenny Mordaunt
Succeeded byAndrew Percy
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
10 September 2020
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Stockton South
In office
6 May 2010  3 May 2017
Preceded byDari Taylor
Succeeded byPaul Williams
Personal details
Born
James Stephen Wharton

(1984-02-16) 16 February 1984 (age 37)
Wolviston, County Durham, England
Political partyConservative
Alma materUniversity College, Durham
University of Law

Early life


James Wharton grew up in Wolviston, County Durham.[2] He went to independent Yarm School and St Peter's School, York followed by Durham University, where he studied Law, and was a member of the Officers' Training Corps (OTC) (part of the Northumbrian UOTC).[3] He was Race Awareness Officer at the Durham Students' Union for the 2003/2004 academic year.[4] He also became President of the Durham University Conservative Association during the same period.[5] Following his graduation from Durham, he studied the Legal Practice Course at The College of Law in York and qualified as a solicitor with BHP Law, a firm in the north east.

Wharton joined the Conservative Party in his teens, and was made chairman of his local association at 18.[3]

Parliamentary and political career


Wharton defeated the sitting Labour MP Dari Taylor to be elected as MP for Stockton South by 332 votes at the 2010 general election, making him his party's youngest MP at the age of 26, as well as one of its most precariously-placed.[3]

From his election in May 2010 to November 2012, Wharton sat on the Public Accounts Committee. Wharton was one of 53 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government in favour of an amendment calling for a cut in the EU budget from 2014.[6] Wharton claimed that his decision was "right for the British people and right for the nation's interests."[7]

Ministerial career

Wharton was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse), the first minister dedicated to the government proposal.[8] However, he rarely left London — a fact that was only released after a judge ruled the department had to comply with a freedom of information request — a process which took 26 months.[9] After Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister in July 2016, Wharton was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development.

EU Referendum Bill

On 16 May 2013, Wharton came top of a ballot of backbench MPs which entitled him to introduce a Private Member's Bill during the 2013–14 parliamentary session. He chose to address the issue of a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by attempting to enshrine the Conservative Party Position into law, by introducing the European Union (Referendum) Bill 2013-14. He faced criticism from opposition MPs for taking on the EU Referendum Bill as his Private Members Bill, and it was suggested by them that the move may have been more advantageous to his political career than of direct benefit to his constituents.[10] Wharton himself had previously suggested that too much time was spent debating the issue of Europe, but has since argued that his Private Member's Bill was designed to put the issue to rest.[11]

After the Bill did not pass the House of Lords, Wharton blamed Labour and Liberal Democrat obstructionism.

Boris Johnson Leadership Campaign

In 2019, Wharton took on the role of Campaign Manager for Boris Johnson in his successful bid to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.[12]

Peerage

In Boris Johnson's 2020 Dissolution Honours List, James was selected for a peerage.[13] He was created Baron Wharton of Yarm, of Yarm in the County of North Yorkshire in the morning of 2 September 2020.[14][15] Lord Wharton was introduced to the House of Lords on 10 September 2020, becoming the youngest male member of the House at the age of 36; the former youngest male members were Lord Parkinson and Lord Ravensdale.

MP for Stockton South - local issues

After being elected MP for Stockton South, Wharton made stated his opposition to a development occurring in Preston Park. The plans, backed by Wharton's predecessor Dari Taylor, included relocating Egglescliffe School to the park. Wharton accused Stockton Borough Council of refusing to listen to the "democratic will of local people."[16]

After a developer withdrew its £750,000 investment to regenerate Thornaby Town Hall, Wharton called for the building to be given to the Town Council. Originally the building belonged to Thornaby-on-Tees Borough Council; however, due to local government reorganisations, it was taken on by Stockton Borough Council in 1974. In 2012 the Town Council purchased the building from the borough council with the hope of enabling the building and the surrounding area to be restored.[17]

In 2014, Wharton denied allegations by a UKIP councillor that a letter he wrote to constituents on the subject of the conflict in Gaza had "been sent to those residents who may reasonably be expected to be Muslims, based only on their names".[18]

International affairs

Wharton has made a number of visits to Sri Lanka, including as a delegate of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with the charity International Alert and as a guest of the Sri Lankan Government, including four visits in nine months during 2012. Wharton denied allegations that he had become too close to the Sri Lankan government, saying that he had made friends on both sides of the ethnic divide and that the lack of a Sri Lankan community in his constituency helped him be "objective"[19]

Trocabart grant

In 2010, Wharton assisted Conservative Town Councillor Jason Hadlow's company Trocabart to secure £30,000 in aid from the former Regional Development Agency, One North East; the business failed and had been closed. He claimed that his only motivation was to promote the growth of jobs in the Teesside area. There has been no evidence of any financial connection between Wharton and the firm.[20]

Parliamentary protocol

Wharton was accused of a breach of Parliamentary protocol, by attending a neighbouring constituency to take part in a photo call at the new Hitachi factory in Phil Wilson's Sedgefield constituency, without advising Wilson in advance. Wharton acknowledged that he had driven minister Brandon Lewis to the site and been photographed there, but said that he had not been there for the duration of the visit.[21] Speaker John Bercow said that MPs should observe the spirit of the rules.[22]

OfS appointment

In 2021, Wharton was appointed chair of the Office for Students, an appointment endorsed by the Education Select Committee.[23] Kate Green, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, criticised the appointed for alleged cronyism.[23] On a potential conflict of interest, as the independent regulator while retaining the Conservative whip as a peer, Wharton said he spoke to party whips and said "they would give me more latitude and understand that I may need to vote against or speak against some of the things the party in government could bring forward".[23]

References


  1. Lodge, Bethany (9 June 2017). "Who is Labour's Dr Paul Williams? Meet Stockton South's next MP". Teesside Gazette. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  2. "James Wharton starts new life by sleeping on a pal's sofa". Gazette Live. 18 May 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  3. Kirkup, James (16 May 2013). "James Wharton MP: serious about Europe". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  4. "DSU Student Handbook 2003/4" (PDF). p. 12. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  5. "Alumni". DUCA - Durham University Conservative Association. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  6. Owen, Paul (1 November 2012). "The Guardian – Full list of Tory EU budget rebels". London. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  7. James Wharton MP: The voters will punish MPs who oppose my EU referendum bill. Telegraph.
  8. "MP James Wharton's handed 'northern powerhouse' ministerial role". BBC. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  9. Chris Stokel-Walker (27 September 2018). "£40k spent hiding how rarely northern powerhouse minister visited north". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  10. South MP defends decision to seek EU Referendum Archived 11 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Thenorthernecho.co.uk (17 May 2013).
  11. EU referendum bill to be put forward by Tory MP | Politics. theguardian.com.
  12. Rentoul, John (11 June 2019). "The people trying to make Boris Johnson prime minister". The Independent. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  13. "Former Teesside MP James Wharton nominated for seat in House of Lords". Teesside Live. 1 August 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  14. "Lord Wharton of Yarm". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  15. "Crown Office". The London Gazette. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  16. "Evening Gazette – Stockton South's new MP pledges to save Preston Park". Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  17. "Evening Gazette – Give Thornaby Town Hall to people says MP". Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  18. Mike, Blackburn (20 August 2014). "MP denies picking out people with 'Muslim' names for leaflet drop about Gaza conflict". Gazette Live. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  19. Burrell, Ian (23 November 2012). "Four visits in nine months and statements in the Commons on the controversial Rajapaska regime: why does the 28-year-old MP for Stockton James Wharton care so much about Sri Lanka?". Independent. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  20. "Stockton Tory MP's bid to get cash for his pal".
  21. Glover, Andrew (9 July 2014). "Chauffeur or gatecrasher? Westminster row as Phil Wilson accuses James Wharton of hijacking jobs photocall for THIS pic". Gazette Live. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  22. "Wilson and Wharton in House of Commons row". ITV. 8 July 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  23. "'Cronyism' warning over Tory peer as student watchdog". BBC News. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.