Wera Hobhouse


Wera Benedicta Hobhouse (née von Reden; born 8 February 1960) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bath since 2017. She has served as the Liberal Democrat Leader of the House of Commons and the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Justice and Women and Equalities under Sir Ed Davey since 2020.

Wera Hobhouse

Hobhouse in 2019
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Justice
Assumed office
1 September 2020
LeaderSir Ed Davey
Preceded byDaisy Cooper
In office
7 February 2019  21 August 2019
LeaderSir Vince Cable
Jo Swinson
Preceded byThe Lord Marks
Succeeded byChristine Jardine
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women and Equalities
Assumed office
1 September 2020
LeaderSir Ed Davey
Preceded byChristine Jardine
Liberal Democrat Leader of the House of Commons
Assumed office
1 September 2020
LeaderSir Ed Davey
Preceded byTom Brake (2017)
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
21 August 2019  1 September 2020
LeaderJo Swinson
Sir Ed Davey
Serving with Sal Brinton (2019–2020)
and Mark Pack (2020)
Preceded byAlistair Carmichael
Succeeded byTim Farron
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for
Energy and Climate Change
In office
6 January 2020  1 September 2020
LeaderSir Ed Davey & Mark Pack (Acting)
Preceded bySam Gyimah
Succeeded bySarah Olney
In office
7 February 2019  21 August 2019
LeaderSir Vince Cable
Jo Swinson
Preceded byThe Baroness Featherstone
Succeeded bySir Ed Davey
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport
In office
21 August 2019  6 January 2020
LeaderJo Swinson
Sir Ed Davey
Serving with Sal Brinton (2019–2020)
and Mark Pack (2020)
Preceded byThe Baroness Randerson
Succeeded bySarah Olney
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government
In office
16 June 2017  7 February 2019
LeaderTim Farron
Sir Vince Cable
Preceded byThe Baroness Pinnock
Succeeded byTim Farron
Member of Parliament
for Bath
Assumed office
8 June 2017
Preceded byBen Howlett
Majority12,322 (23.6%)
Rochdale Borough Councillor
for Norden
In office
2004–2014
Personal details
Born
Wera Benedicta von Reden

(1960-02-08) 8 February 1960 (age 61)
Hanover, Lower Saxony, West Germany
Citizenship
  • British
Political party
Spouse(s)
William Hobhouse
(m. 1989)
Children4
Alma materUniversity of Münster
Websitewww.werahobhouse.co.uk

Hobhouse served under Tim Farron and Sir Vince Cable as Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government from 2017 to 2019. She served under Jo Swinson as Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Transport from 2019 to 2020. She was the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change from February 2019 to August 2019 and again from January 2020 to September 2020.

Early life and career


Wera Benedicta Hobhouse was born on 8 February 1960 in Hanover, Germany.[1] She studied history and fine art at the University of Münster and afterwards studied art for two years at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. She then moved back to Germany, completing a master's degree in history and fine art in Berlin.[2] She married William Hobhouse in 1989 and moved to England the following year. They first lived in Liverpool, where Wera Hobhouse opened an art gallery on Falkner Street.[2][better source needed] They moved to Rochdale in 1999.[3] Prior to her political career, she was a teacher, radio journalist and artist.[1][4][5][6]

Hobhouse was first elected in 2004 as a Conservative councillor for the ward of Norden on Rochdale Council, Greater Manchester. Her political career in Rochdale was defined by the Spodden Valley asbestos controversy; the proposed development of 650 homes on an asbestos-contaminated site.[7] Hobhouse and her husband opposed the proposals, leading them to defect to the Liberal Democrats in 2005. They were criticised at the time for not triggering by-elections to seek fresh mandates as Liberal Democrat councillors.[8][9] The development was successfully blocked in 2011.[10]

Hobhouse was re-elected in 2006 and 2010 for the Liberal Democrats in Norden.[11][12] The Liberal Democrats assumed majority control of Rochdale Council in 2007; Hobhouse served as the cabinet member for the environment between 2006 and 2009 and chaired the health scrutiny committee from 2009 to 2010. After the Liberal Democrats lost majority control of the council in 2010, Hobhouse was elected as the leader of the much-reduced Liberal Democrat group on Rochdale Council in May 2011.[13] In July 2011, Hobhouse accused a council officer of failing to act impartially but later apologised after the council officer began legal action for defamation.[14]

Hobhouse unsuccessfully contested the constituency of Heywood and Middleton in the 2010 general election.[15] In 2014, she retired as a councillor for Norden and moved to Bath.[2] In the local elections of May 2015 she stood unsuccessfully for election to the Bath and North East Somerset Council in the Peasedown ward.[16] On the same day, she contested North East Somerset at the 2015 election, again unsuccessfully.[17]

Parliamentary career


For the 2017 general election, Hobhouse was selected to stand for parliament in Bath.[18] The constituency was held by the Conservative MP Ben Howlett, and had previously been held by the Liberal Democrat Don Foster from 1992 to 2015. Hobhouse stood on a pro-European platform which emphasised housing, education, congestion and pollution concerns, as well as opposition to the incumbent Conservative MP 's plans to link the A46 and A36 roads together. Her party emphasised the need for Labour supporters to vote tactically for Hobhouse to defeat the Conservatives.[4][19] Hobhouse gained the seat with a majority of 5,694 votes and a 17.6% increase in the Liberal Democrat vote share, the second-highest vote share increase for the party nationally.[20][21]

Following her election, Hobhouse was appointed as the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for housing, communities and local government.[22][23] She made her maiden speech on 29 June 2017, and sits on the Committee on Exiting the European Union.[24][23]

On 6 March 2018, Hobhouse presented a Private Members' Bill to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003; her bill aimed to outlaw acts of voyeurism, especially upskirting, which were not then explicitly covered by UK law.[25][26] Justice Secretary David Gauke signalled that the government would support Hobhouse's bill,[27] which was later supported by the Prime Minister, Theresa May.[28] Hobhouse's bill was not debated at its presentation in the House of Commons.[29] At its second reading in the Commons on 15 June 2018, Conservative MP Christopher Chope objected to Hobhouse's bill, preventing its passage through the Commons.[30] May also expressed her disappointment at the objection.[31] Following his objection, the government reaffirmed its commitment to introduce legislation to outlaw upskirting.[32] A government bill to outlaw upskirting was introduced to the House of Commons on 21 June 2018;[33][34] and passed its second reading on 3 July 2018 to become the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019.[34]

In an interview with HuffPost UK published in May 2018, Hobhouse warned against the "toxic" immigration debate in the UK. She acknowledged her party's limited resources following its electoral collapse at the 2015 general election, and affirmed that she was happy with Vince Cable as the party's leader. She urged the party to do more to increase its diversity.[22][35] In July 2018, Hobhouse was criticised for claiming £4,800 in parliamentary expenses for a heavy duty colour printer. Defending her actions, Hobhouse said that she had saved the taxpayer £40,000 by taking over the lease from Bath's previous MP and that she required the printer for her constituency letters.[36][37] In October 2018, Hobhouse's constituency office announced that it had completed 6,000 pieces of casework.[38]

Wera Hobhouse announced winner at the Bath 2019 general election declaration, alongside Annabel Tall the Conservative candidate

In February 2019, Hobhouse was made the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the environment and climate change.[39] In this capacity, Hobhouse pushed for an end to most carbon emissions by 2030, and for net-zero carbon emissions to be achieved by 2045 at the latest.[40] This became the policy position of the Liberal Democrats at their conference in September 2019, where Hobhouse gave a keynote speech on tackling the climate crisis.[41] Among the proposals that she has promoted to meet these targets, Hobhouse has called for a permanent ban on fracking, for increased investment in renewable energy, for greater powers to be given to local authorities to cut emissions, and for all airport expansion to be halted until a replacement can be found for jet fuel.[40]

In February 2020, Hobhouse announced that she would be a candidate in the 2020 Liberal Democrats leadership election, before withdrawing in June and endorsing Layla Moran.[42][43]

Hobhouse is a former member of the governing council of the Electoral Reform Society.[44] She supports proportional representation for UK elections and claims that the coalition government's failure to secure electoral reform was its "biggest disappointment".[6]

Hobhouse supports abortion reform in Northern Ireland,[45] and has supported a campaign to improve the treatment of eating disorders, including by leading a parliamentary debate on destigmatising them.[46][47][48] In local politics, she launched a petition to fund a large police station for the city.[49]

In May 2021, alongside celebrities and other public figures, Hobhouse was a signatory to an open letter from Stylist magazine which called on the government to address what it described as an "epidemic of male violence" by funding an "ongoing, high-profile, expert-informed awareness campaign on men’s violence against women and girls".[50]

Personal life


Wera Hobhouse has been married to William Hobhouse since 1989.[2] They both cite the fall of the Berlin Wall as a pivotal moment in their lives, which they witnessed when they lived in Germany.[6][51] They have four children, two sons and two daughters.[1][4] She naturalised as a British citizen in 2007.[22][52]

Wera Hobhouse is a Christian.[22] Although her mother and grandmother identified as Christians, her great-grandfather was Jewish; which meant that her family were persecuted under the Nuremberg Laws.[5] Hobhouse is fluent in English, German and French.[19] She cites Barack Obama and William Wilberforce as her political idols.[53]

References


  1. "Hobhouse, Wera Benedicta, (born Feb. 1960), MP (Lib Dem) Bath, since 2017". Who's Who. 2017. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.289521.
  2. "Wera Hobhouse: Biography". Archived from the original on 8 August 2017.
  3. "Former Rochdale councillor Wera Hobhouse elected MP for Bath". Rochdale Online. 16 June 2017. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  4. Petherick, Sam (7 June 2017). "Big interview: Wera Hobhouse goes from grassroots campaigner to vying for Bath's seat in parliament". Bath Chronicle. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  5. Dysch, Marcus (14 July 2017). "Same old Middle East debate? Maybe not". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  6. Petherick-Bath, Sam (10 June 2017). "'Somewhat vindicated': Interview with Bath's first woman MP Wera Hobhouse". Bath Chronicle. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  7. Dorsett, Bethan. "Asbestos concerns 'very real', firms finally admit". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  8. "Rochdale Tories in meltdown as Councillors defect (Rochdale Liberal Democrats)". Rochdale: Liberal Democrats (UK). Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  9. "Party fury as Tory defectors join Lib Dems". Manchester Evening News. 25 April 2005. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  10. "Seven years of the Save Spodden Valley campaign". Rochdale Online. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  11. "Rochdale Online - Local Election 2006 - Results". www.rochdaleonline.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  12. "Rochdale Online - Local Election 2010 - Results". www.rochdaleonline.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  13. "Clegg critic Lib Dem leader quits". BBC News. 13 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  14. Jones, Chris (26 October 2011). "Apology from Lib Dem leader Wera Hobhouse over conduct slur". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  15. "Election results for Heywood & Middleton, 6 May 2010". Rochdale Borough Council. 6 May 2010. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  16. "Peasedown". Bath and North East Somerset Council. 7 May 2015. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  17. "Somerset North East". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 May 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  18. Lowther, Ed (18 May 2017). "Election 2017: How many women might win power?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017.
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  20. "Bath parliamentary constituency – Election 2017". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  21. "GE2017 – Constituency results". Britain Elects. Retrieved 11 June 2017 via Google Docs.
  22. Simons, Ned (1 May 2018). "Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse Worries 'Toxic' Debate On Immigration Reminiscent Of Nazi Germany". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  23. "Wera Hobhouse MP, Bath - TheyWorkForYou". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  24. "Economy and Jobs - Hansard Online - 29 June 2017". hansard.parliament.uk. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  25. "Voyeurism (Offences) Bill" (PDF). House of Commons. 6 March 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  26. "Liberal Democrat MP tables new law to make 'upskirting' a criminal offence". The Independent. 8 March 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  27. "New law could be made against upskirting in the UK". The Telegraph. 24 April 2018. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  28. "Prime Minister backs Wera Hobhouse MP's calls to make upskirting an offence". Liberal Democrats - Wera Hobhouse MP. 3 May 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  29. "Voyeurism (Offences) Bill 2017-19 — UK Parliament". UK Parliament Services. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  30. "New upskirting law blocked by Tory MP". BBC News. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  31. Allegretti, Aubrey (16 June 2018). "Theresa May 'disappointed' as Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope blocks upskirting bill". Sky News. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  32. Crerar, Pippa (18 June 2018). "Upskirting: government confirms plan to introduce ban". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  33. Bradley, Sorcha (21 June 2018). "Campaigners celebrate as government tables bill to tackle upskirting". Sky News. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  34. "Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill" (PDF). publications.parliament.uk. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  35. Bartlett, Nicola (1 May 2018). "German-born MP says UK immigration debate has parallels with Nazi Germany". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  36. Tominey, Camilla (22 July 2018). "I write a lot of letters, insists the MP with a £5,000 printer". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
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  39. http://www.libdems.org.uk (18 November 2014). "Wera Hobhouse". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  40. correspondent, Fiona Harvey Environment (14 September 2019). "Lib Dems set out radical agenda for tackling climate emergency". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
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  44. "Our council". Electoral Reform Society. Archived from the original on 9 December 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  45. Al-Othman, Hannah (7 June 2018). "These MPs Say They'll Force The Government To Reform Northern Irish Abortion Law". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
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  49. "Bath MP Wera Hobhouse launches petition for 'proper police station'". Bath Echo. 4 September 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  50. ""We're calling on you to act now": read Stylist's open letter to Priti Patel about ending male violence against women and girls". Stylist. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
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