Tom Harris (British politician)

Thomas Harris (born 20 February 1964) is a British journalist and former politician who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow South, formerly Glasgow Cathcart, from 2001 to 2015. A former member of the Scottish Labour Party, he left the party in August 2018.

Tom Harris
Harris as a government minister
Shadow Minister for the Environment
In office
15 May 2012  12 June 2013
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byFiona O'Donnell
Succeeded byBarry Gardiner
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport
In office
7 September 2006  4 October 2008
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded byJim Fitzpatrick
Succeeded byPaul Clark
Member of Parliament
for Glasgow South
Glasgow Cathcart (2001–2005)
In office
7 June 2001  30 March 2015
Preceded byJohn Maxton
Succeeded byStewart McDonald
Personal details
Thomas Harris

(1964-02-20) 20 February 1964 (age 57)
Ayrshire, Scotland
Political partyIndependent (since 2018)
Other political
Labour (1984–2018)
Spouse(s)Carolyn Moffat
Alma materNapier University
OccupationFormer politician, journalist, and press officer

Harris first entered government when he was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport in September 2006 by PM Tony Blair. When Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in June 2007, Harris kept his junior ministerial role but, in the October 2008 reshuffle, he was sacked and returned to the backbenches.[1] On 9 June 2009, he was the first Scottish Labour MP to call for Gordon Brown to stand down as prime minister.[2]

Harris was a candidate in the 2011 Scottish Labour Party leadership election,[3] but effectively admitted defeat on 10 December a week before the result was declared.[4] In 2012, he returned to Ed Miliband's frontbench as shadow environment minister but left in June 2013 to spend more time with his family, being succeeded by Barry Gardiner.[5][6] Harris is a member of the advisory board of the Reform Scotland think tank and maintains a Blairite perspective on British politics.[7][8]

Early life and career

Tom Harris was born in Ayrshire and raised in Beith, Scotland. He was educated at the Garnock Academy[9] in Kilbirnie and Napier College, Edinburgh, where he was awarded an HND in Journalism in 1986. He worked as a trainee newspaper journalist with the East Kilbride News in 1986 before joining the Paisley Daily Express in 1988.

He was appointed as a press officer with the Scottish Labour Party in 1990, moving to the same position with Strathclyde Regional Council in 1992. He was briefly the senior media officer with the City of Glasgow Council in 1996 before joining East Ayrshire Council later in the same year as a public relations manager. In 1998, he became the chief of public relations at the Strathclyde Passenger Executive, where he remained until his election to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Harris joined the Labour Party in 1984. He was active in the Edinburgh South Constituency Labour Party and was elected as the chairman of the Glasgow Cathcart Constituency Labour Party for two years in 1998. During his time at this post, he tried to stop the closure of the ABC Muirend/Toledo cinema, but was unsuccessful.

Parliamentary career

Harris was elected to the House of Commons at the 2001 General Election for the Glasgow seat of Cathcart following the retirement of the Labour MP John Maxton. He held the seat with a majority of 10,816 and made his maiden speech on 27 June 2001.[10] His seat was abolished following the creation of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood and the subsequent reduction of Scottish seats at Westminster. He represented the new seat of Glasgow South from the 2005 General Election until losing in 2015.

He served on the Science and Technology Select Committee for two years from 2001, and was appointed in 2003 as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, John Spellar. From 2005, he was PPS to the Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt. On 7 September 2006, he replaced Derek Twigg as Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Transport. However, in October 2008 Harris announced on his blog that the Prime Minister had telephoned him to inform him that he would be returning to the back benches.[11]

He is a committed trade unionist and was a member of the National Union of Journalists from 1984 until he joined UNISON in 1997, and has since a member of Unite the Union. He introduced a bill in 2005 for tougher sentences for e-criminals.[12] Also in 2005, he was involved in an argument over the funding of a housing charity which had called for direct action following the eviction and deportation to Albania of a Kosovan family seeking asylum from a flat in Drumchapel.[13] He was a keen supporter of John Smith and is reported to have been more of a Blairite than a Brownite. He wrote a popular blog[14] from 2007 to 2010, which has won a number of awards and in 2011 published a book containing excerpts from it, entitled "Why I'm Right and Everyone Else Is Wrong". In the 2009, Top Political Blog Awards run by Total Politics magazine, it was voted top MP's blog, top Scottish blog and top left-of-centre blog, and was ranked number 8 overall.[15] He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.

On 6 December 2010, he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme to criticise protesters who had intimidated ordinary shoppers using Topshop and Vodafone in the run-up to Christmas and suggested that corporate tax avoidance could be prevented by a change in tax regulations. In 2011, he actively campaigned against the Alternative Vote in the referendum that year.[16]

Harris was forced to stand down from his role as Internet Adviser on 16 January 2012, following adverse media reaction to his posting of a Downfall parody on YouTube ridiculing First Minister Alex Salmond.[17]

In 2015, Harris lost his seat to Stewart McDonald of the SNP.

Scottish Labour Party leadership bid

In August 2011 Harris expressed an interest, and in September 2011 confirmed on Twitter he was standing in the election to be the next leader of the Scottish Labour Party, after the publication of the Murphy and Boyack review.[18] He described the Scottish Labour Party as having had "no new ideas in 12 years [of devolution]",[19] and that it must become a "party of aspiration"[20] or it risked becoming irrelevant in the next few years.[21]

Harris was the only MP to enter the race and said Labour had become "too closely associated with the public sector", rather than being "a party of business". He also said the "Scottish Labour party was really in deep trouble and that we need to think outside the box. There is no indication that the party is prepared to do that yet and I don't know why".[4]

He considered standing in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but announced via his podcast [22] in May 2012 that he had given up this ambition and was committed to stand in his Glasgow South constituency at the United Kingdom general election of 2015.[23]

Post-MP career

Since losing his seat, Harris has set up a public affairs company called Third Avenue Public Affairs Ltd and, as of 2019, is senior counsel for the Edinburgh-based media and political relations consultancy Message Matters.[24][25] He is also an associate consultant with Peterborough-based public affairs company Cogitamus Ltd. In March 2016 he replaced Dan Hodges as a daily commentator for The Daily Telegraph.[26]

Also in March 2016, he became the new director of the Scottish branch of Vote Leave, the campaign for Britain to leave the EU.[27] Although a eurosceptic, Harris said he had originally intended to vote to stay in; however he found David Cameron's renegotiation of Britain's membership unsatisfactory, denouncing it as, "a few minor changes of emphasis on the fringes of EU policy" and decided to vote to leave.[28]

Harris has continued to speak out in favour of Brexit in his newspaper columns since 2016.[29]

In March 2018, Ten Years In The Death of the Labour Party written by Harris was published by Biteback.[citation needed] In August, he announced his resignation from the Labour Party in an op-ed for The Daily Telegraph.[30] In November 2019, he announced he would be voting for the Conservatives at the 2019 general election.[31] Harris further admitted on the 29th July 2020 edition of the Iain Dale All Talk podcast that this wasn't the first time he'd voted Conservative, having done so two years earlier aswell.

In October 2018, Harris was appointed to the Expert Challenge Panel supporting Keith Williams in his wide-ranging review of the British railway industry. As of July 2020, the review has yet to be published. In July 2020 he was appointed as a Non-Executive Director of HS2 Ltd.[32]

Personal life

Harris married Carolyn Moffat in 1998; the couple have two sons. He has another son from an earlier marriage which was dissolved in 1996. He is a Christian[33] and enjoys astronomy and badminton. He is a fan of Doctor Who and friend of its former showrunner Steven Moffat.[34][35] Harris contributed to Behind The Sofa, the collection of celebrity Doctor Who fan memories published by Gollancz in 2013.[36] He firmly opposed a female actor playing the Doctor.[37] In 2019 he launched a Doctor Who podcast called "The Power of 3", alongside fellow Who fans Kenny Smith and David Steel.


  1. "Tom Harris". 5 May 2005. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  2. "Scots MP calls for PM to resign". BBC News. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  3. "Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls Tom Harris, Johann Lamont & Ken Macintosh tell us how they plan to get Labour back into power". Daily Record. Glasgow. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  4. "Labour contest for leader now 'two-horse race'". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  5. "MP Tom Harris quits frontbench for family". The Independent. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  6. "Voting record - Barry Gardiner MP, Brent North". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  7. "Tom Harris". The Telegraph.
  8. "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 17 November 2017. Cite uses generic title (help)
  9. Archived 20 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (27 June 2001). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 27 Jun 2001 (pt 17)". Retrieved 5 February 2012.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. Archived 1 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Penalty plea on cyber criminals". BBC News. 12 July 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  13. "Exchange over asylum row tactics". BBC News. 27 November 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  14. "Tom Harris – Blogger, Writer & Internet Tinkerer".
  15. "Latest Blog Posts". Archived from the original on 29 March 2010.
  16. "Harris Exposes Av Myths". 24 March 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  17. "MP Tom Harris quits media post over Hitler joke video". BBC News. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  18. Herald View (23 August 2011). "Much at stake for Labour's next leader at Holyrood". Herald Scotland. Glasgow. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  19. Devlin, Kate (24 September 2011). "Miliband kicks off Labour fightback amid polls gloom". Herald Scotland. Glasgow. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  20. Peterkin, Tom (29 October 2011). "Tom Harris warns Scottish Labour could become an 'irrelevance'". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  21. Gordon, Tom (24 September 2011). "We're rubbish ... but all the other parties are even worse". Herald Scotland. Glasgow. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  23. Johnson, Simon (4 November 2011). "Tom Harris launches Scottish Labour leadership campaign". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  24. "About". Third Avenue. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  25. "Our People". Message Matters. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  26. "Tom Harris". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  27. "EU referendum: Tom Harris to head Scottish Vote Leave campaign". BBC News. 18 March 2016.
  29. Harris, Tom (28 August 2019). "This isn't a 'constitutional outrage' – whingeing Remainers need to grow up" via
  30. Harris, Tom (7 August 2018). "I have resigned from Labour because the war is over, and the moderates have lost". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  31. Harris, Tom (13 November 2019). "I used to live, eat and breathe the Labour Party. Now I'm voting for Boris Johnson" via
  32. Switchboard 0300 330 3000, Media enquiries 020 7944 3021 Out of hours media enquiries 020 7944 4292. "New board members to strengthen oversight of HS2 as it enters next phase of delivery". GOV.UK. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  33. Harris, Tom. "Conscience and Judgement". Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  34. "Who do we think we are?". Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  35. "Blog meme – because Dale told me to". 26:11. 24 August 2008. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  36. Various (31 October 2013). Berry, Steve (ed.). Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who. Gollancz. ISBN 9780575129450.
  37. Harris, Tom (16 February 2017). "Doctor Who provides plenty of female role models – so keep your hands off the Doctor's genitalia". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 September 2018.