Steve Baker (politician)
Steven John Baker (born 6 June 1971) is a British politician and a former Royal Air Force engineer, consultant and bank worker, who served as Chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) from 2016 to 2017 and 2019 to 2020. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wycombe in Buckinghamshire since 2010.
In June 2015 he became co-chairman of Conservatives for Britain, a campaigning organisation formed of Eurosceptic MPs. He co-founded The Cobden Centre and sits on its advisory board. He established and chairs the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Economics, Money and Banking. He most notably served as Chairman of the ERG, a pro-Brexit group of Conservative MPs, from 20 November 2016 until his promotion to ministerial office at the Department for Exiting the European Union on 13 June 2017, but resigned from his office on 9 July 2018 following the resignation of David Davis over concerns with the government's strategy on Brexit. The same day, Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg appointed Baker as the Deputy Chairman and de facto whip of the ERG, alongside Mark Francois. In September 2019 Baker was again elected as the group's chairman, taking over from Rees-Mogg. In February 2020 he announced his resignation from the post, but confirmed that he would continue to remain a member.
Early life and career
Baker was born on 6 June 1971 in St Austell in Cornwall. He was educated at Poltair School in St Austell and St Austell Sixth Form College followed by the University of Southampton where he gained a BEng in Aerospace Engineering. He later studied at St Cross College, Oxford, where he earned an MSc in Computation.
On 3 September 1989, Baker joined the Royal Air Force as an engineer and became an Engineering Officer, with the rank of pilot officer, on 15 July 1992. He was promoted to flying officer in 1993 and flight lieutenant in 1996. Remaining in that latter rank, Baker retired from the RAF on 1 August 1999 at his own request. He later worked as a consulting software engineer and manager. He was head of client services with DecisionSoft Ltd (now named CoreFiling) in Oxford, 2000–2001.
He was appointed as Chief Technical Officer at BASDA Ltd, Great Missenden in 2002, a position he held until 2007. For a year from 2005 he was director of product development at CoreFiling Ltd, Oxford. He was the chief architect of global financing and asset service platforms at Lehman Brothers, 2006–2008. He has been principal of Ambriel Consulting Ltd since 2001. He is a founding member of The Cobden Centre, an educational charity promoting Austrian economics.
Baker was selected as the Conservative candidate for Wycombe on 31 October 2009, after former Conservative MP Paul Goodman stood down; it was the first seat for which Baker had sought selection. Baker held the seat for the Conservative Party. He received 23,423 votes – a vote share of 48.6%, higher than Goodman's 42.4% and 45.8% in the 2001 and 2005 general elections respectively. He was re-elected at the 2015 general election and 2017 general election. The 2017 election saw Baker's majority cut to just 6,500, with Labour gaining 37.7% of the vote. Wycombe is now listed as a marginal, and despite it being number 43 on Labour's list of target seats requiring a 6.15% swing for Labour to win, Baker held onto the seat in the 2019 general election with a reduced majority.
Baker was rated as one of the Conservatives' top 10 most rebellious MPs of the 2010 intake. He was nominated as a 'Newcomer of the Year' on ConservativeHome. He was named as the most authoritative Member of Parliament on Twitter in January 2011. In March 2011, Baker initiated an adjournment debate alleging a malicious prosecution of an operator of an independent mental health unit. Eventually, the Solicitor General Edward Garnier issued an apology. That year, Baker attracted controversy after he was one of three Conservative MPs who went on a luxury trip to Equatorial Guinea, funded by the Government of the state, via a trust based in Malta. They reported at the end of the trip that human rights violations in the country were "trivial", in contrast to Amnesty International, who had reported repeated incidents of torture in the country.
Baker has campaigned for banking reform, calling for banks to re-adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Practice to account for devalued loans, as well as failed ones; in May 2011, he calculated that the use of IFRS instead of GAAP over-stated the strength of Royal Bank of Scotland's balance sheet by £25bn. He introduced a Ten Minute Rule bill to 'bring casino banking into the light', by changing rules by which banks account for derivatives. He was elected to the executive of the 1922 Committee on 16 May 2012, saying he was 'fed up with factionalism' and wanted 'to stand as neither a modernising 301 candidate or a traditionalist'.
Baker was shortlisted for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in 2015 for the founding of the Cobden Centre, and remains in the directory of the Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who publication. In 2017, the Unite Union raised concerns that Baker had lobbied for the deregulation of white asbestos. In 2010, in a series of parliamentary questions, Baker asked the Work and Pensions Secretary: "If he will bring forward proposals to distinguish the white form of asbestos and the blue and brown forms of that substance," also questioning: "If he will commission an inquiry into the appropriateness of the health and safety precautions in force in respect of asbestos cement."
In February 2018, as a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union he was forced to apologise after inaccurately claiming that civil servants had deliberately produced negative economic models to influence policy. Answering questions in the House of Commons, Baker confirmed a claim by the Eurosceptic backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg that Charles Grant, the Director of the Centre for European Reform, had reported that Treasury officials "had deliberately developed a model to show that all options other than staying in the customs union were bad, and that officials intended to use this to influence policy". Audio then emerged of the event in question, which showed the Grant had not made the comments attributed to him. By the time the audio was released by Prospect magazine, the Prime Minister's spokesman had already backed Baker's claims. The spokesman later said that Baker had made a "genuine mistake". On 8 July 2018, Baker resigned following the resignation of the Brexit Secretary, David Davis after working on a Brexit white paper which Baker said "did not accord with what was put to the cabinet" a few days earlier.
On 22 October 2018, Baker submitted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May's leadership over her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement proposals, stating that he had become convinced it was not possible to "separate the person from the policy." A few days earlier, Baker had told fellow members of the European Research Group that by his count they likely already had the 48 letters necessary to trigger a motion of no confidence in Theresa May's leadership, and told BBC Politics they were "pretty close" to getting them "with a dozen more probables on top".
In the House of Commons Baker has sat on the Transport Committee and the Treasury Committee.
Baker is a council member of the Air League.
In May 2020 he called for Dominic Cummings's resignation. He is a steering committee member of the COVID Recovery Group, a group of Conservative MPs who oppose the UK government's December 2020 lockdown. They have been seen as an "echo" of the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) of MPs, and a response by backbench Conservatives to Nigel Farage's anti-lockdown Reform UK party.
Some commentators, such as Ian Birrell of The Guardian, regard Baker as being on the right wing of the Conservative Party. The Associated Press has described him as a libertarian. He is a member of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group. He describes his political inspiration as being the Liberal Richard Cobden, founding the Cobden Centre under the motto: 'Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less'. He identifies as a born again Christian.
Baker campaigned for Brexit before and during the 2016 referendum. He says he originally joined the Conservative Party with the express intention of campaigning for the UK to leave the EU. He chaired Conservatives for Britain, a predecessor group to the official Vote Leave campaign and the Eurosceptic European Research Group until becoming a minister. He was described by the New Statesman as someone who had been "the most doctrinaire Leaver inside government and one of the few sincere advocates for a no-deal exit on the government payroll" before resigning. Back in 2010, he stated at a meeting of the Libertarian Alliance that he thought "the European Union needs to be wholly torn down", considering it "an obstacle to ... free trade and peace among all the nations of Europe as well as the world". Baker argues Brexit presents an opportunity for more free trade outside the EU but also favours protectionism against China. During an interview with Sky News after one of the many debates on Brexit in 2019, Baker referred to himself as "the hard man of Brexit"
He has expressed scepticism about the exact scope of human influence on climate change, stating in 2010 that the science appears to be subject to uncertainties and that bad economics are a greater threat to civilisation than climate change. Baker voted against the party Whip to oppose the construction of the High Speed 2 rail line in 2010, although the line did not pass through his own constituency, arguing that the whole plan should be scrapped.
Regarding parliamentary procedures, Baker wants to reform Early day motions (EDMs), possibly replacing them with "Members' Motions" on the grounds that EDMs 'are used to publicise the views of individual MPs', whereas a system such as 'Members' Motions' could be 'debated by the House'.
Baker voted in opposition to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, and called for the denationalisation of marriage. He argued that the current situation risks infringing both the freedoms of the religious and LGBT communities, and that private individuals should define the term marriage, rather than the state.
In February 2021 Baker proposed to reform the Public Health Act legislation to "prevent ministers [from] imposing job-destroying restrictions without warning or scrutiny" in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, to ensure that economists have a share of seats on the advisory board where "decisions on social restrictions are made", and drew inspiration for his proposed monthly sunset clauses from the Civil Contingencies Act.
He is married to Beth (Julia Elizabeth), a former RAF officer in the medical branch. He is a committed evangelical Christian and is a member of a local church. He lists skydiving and motorcycling as his hobbies.
- "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8740.
- "Steve Baker MP". BBC News. 7 May 2010.
- Baker, Steve (6 June 2015). "Conservatives will stand up for Britain if the EU lets us down". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- Greenfield, Patrick; Russell, Graham (7 July 2018). "David Davis steps down as Brexit secretary in blow to PM". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
- "Steve Baker on his resignation as Brexit minister". BBC News. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
- Maguire, Patrick (15 November 2018). "Why are Tory rebels pushing for a confidence vote they might not win?". New Statesman. London.
- "MPs pass customs bill but PM suffers new resignation". Sky News. 16 July 2018.
- Peck, Tom (20 November 2018). "Jacob Rees-Mogg's descent is complete. No longer merely the punchline but the entire joke". The Independent. London.
- Maguire, Patrick (19 February 2019). "What exactly do Tory rebels want on the backstop?". New Statesman. London.
- "I have today resigned as Chair of the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs. The UK has now left the EU and the PM has the policy, the mandate and the majority necessary to make a success of it". Twitter. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
- Profile, ukwhoswho.com. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- "Tory hits out at HQ over Wycombe MP selection". Bucks Free Press. 2 November 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- "No. 52011". The London Gazette. 8 January 1990. p. 338.
- "No. 53040". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 September 1992. p. 15052.
- "No. 53226". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 February 1993. p. 3309.
- "No. 53040". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 September 1992. p. 15052.
- "No. 55601". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 September 1999. p. 9595.
- Tolley, Steve (31 July 2014). "Profile: MP Steve Baker on tax, freedom and 'Kremlin-ology' at the Bank of England". Money Marketing. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- "Detailed Biography". Stevebaker.info. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
- It's time to end the cruel delusion of cheap money, City A.M., 3 December 2013.
- "Wycombe". BBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- "Labour hold Luton South against Esther challenge". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Evans, Oliver (7 May 2010). "Tories increase grip on Wycombe as Lib Dems move into second". Bucks Free Press. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- "Philip Hollobone continues to top the league table of backbench rebels". Conservative Home.
- Staff (31 December 2010). "Newcomer of 2010". ConservativeHome. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- "Twitter: The top 20 Members of Parliament". The Daily Telegraph. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Williams, Christopher (25 January 2011). "Politicians 'have less authority' than comedians on Twitter". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Lakhani, Nina (3 April 2011). "'Shocking demise' of hospital threatens NHS reform". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- "Conservative MP take five-star junket to Equatorial Guinea". The Daily Telegraph. 29 October 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- "I met Brexiter Steve Baker in Equatorial Guinea. His plan there was just as daft". The Guardian. 12 September 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- Armistead, Louise (2 June 2011). "Royal Bank of Scotland told by MPs to explain £25bn accounting 'distortion'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Hosking, Patrick (17 May 2011). "RBS 'more exposed to toxic loans than it admits'". The Times. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Treanor, Jill (14 December 2011). "Banks use accounting loopholes to inflate profits and bolster bonuses". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Huggins, Donata (10 May 2012). "Bloodlust at the 1922 Committee". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
- "Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who". Grassroot Diplomat. 15 March 2015. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
- "Asbestos regulations under attack by the government minister". 4 July 2017.
- "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 27 Oct 2010 (pt 0001)". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
- Asthana, Anushka (1 February 2018). "Brexit minister forced into apology for maligning civil service". The Guardian.
- "Factbox: Who has submitted letters of no confidence in PM May?". Reuters. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Sabbagh, Dan (16 November 2018). "Growing number of Tory MPs join attempt to topple Theresa May". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
- "Baker on 48 letters to start May leadership challenge". BBC News. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
- "Steve Baker". Parliament UK. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- "Key People – The Air League".
- "Every Conservative MP who has condemned Dominic Cummings as lockdown row escalates". Politics Home. 25 May 2020. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
- Hope, Christopher (10 November 2020). "Tory lockdown rebels unite to form Covid Recovery Group". The Telegraph.
- Birrell, Ian (12 September 2018). "I met Brexiter Steve Baker in Equatorial Guinea. His plan there was just as daft | Ian Birrell". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
[...] this man has emerged as one of the leading lights in the European Research Group of hardline Brexiteers – and seems to be doing much the same thing in advocating a course of action for a country based on ideology rather than insight. Baker has said he wants the EU abolished, not just Brexit, claiming its disappearance “would not be noticed”. Yet he is far from the only fanatic in his disruptive group devastating the government.
- "Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction". openDemocracy. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- Italie, Hillel (11 April 2020). "Libertarians debate: How to respond to coronavirus pandemic?". Associated Press. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
- "What is the Cornerstone group? Matthew Barrett profiles the socially conservative Tory backbench group". Conservative Home. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- "International Affairs". 14 November 2010.
- "Cobden Centre". 14 November 2010.
- Maguire, Patrick (18 July 2018). "Meet Steve Baker, the Brexiteers' shop steward". New Statesman. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
- "Steve Baker, the ex-Brexit minister hell-bent on torpedoing May's Chequers plan". The Guardian. 30 September 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
- Maguire, Patrick (9 July 2018). "David Davis's resignation isn't the one Theresa May should be worried about". New Statesman. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
- "Brexit: Minister appointed to negotiate Britain's withdrawal wants European Union 'wholly torn down'", the Independent
- "Free trade is key to the UK's prosperity after Brexit". Financial Times. 10 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
- www.indy100.com https://www.indy100.com/news/brexit-steve-baker-hard-man-erg-sky-news-twitter-response-885087102. Retrieved 29 May 2021. Missing or empty
- Baker, Steve. "Gold". stevebaker.info. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
- McSmith, Andy (8 October 2011). "Village People: Tories ill at ease with the wheeze that is quantitative easing". The Independent. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- "Steve Baker MP: The greatest threat to civilisation is not climate change but bad economics". Conservative Home. 19 December 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- Milmo, Dan (19 December 2010). "Backlash from Conservative heartlands expected over high speed rail". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Nadal, James (23 November 2010). "Wycombe MP Steve Baker: HS2 case 'not proven'". Bucks Free Press. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "EDMs: Motions for "an early day"". 14 November 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Baker, Steve (5 February 2013). "Where I stand " Gay Marriage". Retrieved 25 February 2014.
- Baker, Steve (14 February 2021). "Ministers must never again be free to impose crippling restrictions without proper scrutiny". Telegraph Media Group Limited.
- "Subscribe to read | Financial Times". www.ft.com. Cite uses generic title (help)