Richard Drax

Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (born 29 January 1958), known as Richard Drax,[lower-alpha 1] is a British Conservative politician, journalist, landowner and former British Army officer, serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for South Dorset since 2010.

Richard Drax

Member of Parliament
for South Dorset
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byJim Knight
Majority17,153 (33.6%)
Personal details
Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax

(1958-01-29) 29 January 1958 (age 63)
Westminster, London, England
Political partyConservative
    Zara Legg-Bourke
    (m. 1985; div. 1997)
      Eliza S Dugdale
      (m. 1998)
      • Elsebet Bødtker
      ResidenceCharborough House, Dorset
      EducationHarrow School
      Alma materRoyal Agricultural College
      Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
      ProfessionArmy officer; journalist
      Military career
      Allegiance United Kingdom
      Service/branch British Army
      Years of service1978–1987
      Rank Captain
      Service number506831
      Unit Coldstream Guards

      Early life

      Drax was born on 29 January 1958 in Westminster, London. He was educated at Harrow School before going to the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester where he graduated with a diploma in rural land management in 1990, receiving a further diploma in journalism in 1995.[1][2]


      Military service

      Drax passed out from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned in the British Army joining the Coldstream Guards on 9 December 1978 as a second lieutenant.[3] Drax was promoted lieutenant on 9 December 1980,[4] before being transferred to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers after active service on 9 December 1983, ending his first period of full-time military service.[5]

      Drax was reinstated on the Active List on 10 September 1984, beginning his second and final period of regular service. He retained the rank of lieutenant with seniority from 10 September 1981 to reflect the three years he had served.[6] He was promoted captain on 10 March 1986.[7]

      He relinquished his British Army commission on 9 September 1987, thereby retiring after nine years' service as a Coldstreamer.[8]


      Drax worked at York's Evening Press as a reporter in 1991,[2] before joining BBC South where he appeared on both radio and television media, including the daily television news programme South Today.[9]

      Parliamentary career

      Selected as a Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate in July 2006, at the general election in May 2010 Drax defeated the incumbent Labour Member of Parliament for South Dorset, Jim Knight, later Lord Knight of Weymouth.[10] Drax retained his seat in the 2015 general election with an increased majority and the 2017 general election.

      On 5 February 2013, Drax voted in the House of Commons against a Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 that legalised marriage for same-sex couples.[11]

      In the House of Commons he has sat on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and currently serves on the European Scrutiny Committee.[12]

      In 2009, Drax faced criticism from political rivals for 'hiding his aristocratic roots' by not using his full quadruple-barrelled name. It was suggested the then leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, had asked wealthy Conservative candidates to shorten their names to appear more in touch with normal people. Drax denied the accusations, saying that he only used the shortened version of his name because of the "logistic mouthful", while Cameron's comments were a "throw away joke".[13]

      In January 2016, the Labour Party unsuccessfully proposed an amendment in Parliament that would have required private landlords to make their homes "fit for human habitation". According to Parliament's register of interests, Drax was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment who personally derived an income from renting out property. The Conservative Government had responded to the amendment that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.[14]

      Drax campaigned for Brexit during the 2016 referendum.[15] In April 2019, in a speech in the House of Commons, Drax said that he "made the wrong call" by supporting the government's Brexit deal and called for the resignation of Theresa May if she failed to take the UK out of the EU by 12 April.[16] Drax praised May's succcessor, Boris Johnson, for achieving a trade deal in December 2020, but in February 2021 criticised the UK's exit due to issues with trade in Northern Ireland.[17][18]

      In June 2020, Drax wrote an article in the Dorset Echo suggesting that rioters linked to the Black Lives Matter protests had been responsible for desecrating the cenotaph war memorial in London.[19]


      Drax lives in his family's ancestral seat, Charborough House – a Grade I listed manor house in rural Dorset. He holds the lordship of the manor of Longburton[citation needed] and is the largest individual landowner in Dorset, owning approximately 13,870 acres.[20] He also owns the 2,200-acre Ellerton Abbey farming estate in Swaledale, North Yorkshire, and the nearby 520-acre Copperthwaite Allotment grouse moor.[21]

      Drax is the eldest son of Henry Walter Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (1928–2017)[22] JP DL and The Hon. Pamela Weeks (1931–2019) and a grandson of Admiral The Hon. Sir Reginald Drax, younger son of the 17th Lord Dunsany thereby being in remainder to the ancient Barony of Dunsany (cr. 1462): the second oldest title in the Peerage of Ireland. His great-uncle was the celebrated writer and playwright the 18th Lord Dunsany, and his maternal grandfather was General the Lord Weeks.

      His first wife (divorced 1997) was Zara Legge-Bourke, younger sister of the royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, relations of the Earl of Dartmouth. Drax married his second wife; Eliza, daughter of Commander James Dugdale RN (related to David Cameron) in 1998. Drax since married his third wife Norwegian-born Elsebet Bødtker and has four children in total.[23]

      At least six of his ancestors, including John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle-Drax and the 17th Lord Dunsany, were Members of Parliament for Dorset and Gloucestershire between the 1680s and 1880s. A cousin is the 19th and present Lord Dunsany.[24]

      Family links to historical slavery

      During the 2010 United Kingdom general election campaign period, in which Drax was campaigning to be MP for South Dorset, the Daily Mirror reported that Drax's family had earned their fortune through slavery. Drax's response questioned his responsibility for "something that happened 300 or 400 years ago", stating "it's not what I stand for", and cited the desperation of his opponents- "all they can do is pick at bits of my family history". In 2013, the BBC reported that his ancestor John Erle-Drax, who had an estate in Barbados,[25] was recorded in a database created by University College London as having received £4,293 12s 6d in compensation in 1836 for 189 slaves when slavery was abolished.[26]

      A 2020 investigation by The Guardian found that Richard Drax still owns and grows sugar on the same Drax Hall plantation in Barbados that made the family's fortune. Over 200 years, 30,000 slaves died at this and the other Drax plantations, according to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Chair of CARICOM's Reparations Commission. "The Drax family has done more harm and violence to the black people of Barbados than any other," he said.[21]

      See also


      1. This British person has the barrelled surname Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, but is mostly known by the surname Drax.


      1. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
      2. "DRAX, Richard Grosvenor". Who's Who 2013. A & C Black. November 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
      3. "No. 47757". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 January 1979. p. 1300.
      4. "No. 48460". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 December 1980. p. 17809.
      5. "No. 49574". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 December 1983. p. 16793.
      6. "No. 49904". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 October 1984. p. 14268.
      7. "No. 50461". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 1986. p. 3836.
      8. "No. 51067". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 September 1987. p. 11736.
      9. "Dorset South Tories choose Drax". BBC News. 28 July 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
      10. Kitching, Laura; Catherine Bolado (7 May 2010). "Election 2010: Sweeping victory for Tory Richard Drax". Dorset Echo.
      11. The House of Commons 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012–13.
      12. "Richard Drax". Parliament UK. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
      13. Phillips, Miriam (8 December 2009). "Richard Drax hits out over name change claims". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
      14. Stone, Jon (13 January 2016). "Tories vote down law requiring landlords make their homes fit for human habitation". Independent. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
      15. "Vote Leave". Richard Drax. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
      16. Evans, Albert (1 April 2019). "Tory MP Richard Drax says he made a mistake voting for Theresa May's Brexit deal". inews. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
      17. Nash, Vicky (2 January 2021). "South Dorset MP, Richard Drax, praises Brexit trade deal". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
      18. Woodcock, Andrew (8 February 2021). "Brexiteers failed to take UK out of EU as single country, Tory MP admits". The Independent. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
      19. "Column: A wave of intolerance has swept this country". Dorset Echo. 20 June 2020.
      20. Shrubsole, Guy (4 January 2020). "The ten landowners who own one-sixth of Dorset". Who Owns England?.
      21. Lashmar, Paul; Jonathan Smith (12 December 2020). "He's the MP with the Downton Abbey lifestyle. But the shadow of slavery hangs over the gilded life of Richard Drax". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
      22. Horsfield, Michaela (21 July 2017). "Obituary of Henry Walter Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax". Daily Echo. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
      23. Pukas, Anna (7 June 2013). "MP Richard Drax, his wife, the lesbian housekeeper and the threesome that never was". Retrieved 18 December 2019.
      24. Mosley, Charles (ed.) (2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 107th edn. London: Burke's Peerage & Gentry Ltd. p. 1240 (DUNSANY, B). ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
      25. "Summary of Individual | Legacies of British Slave-ownership".
      26. "Ancestors of Dorset MP Richard Drax on slavery database". BBC News. BBC. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2018.