Christopher Stephen Grayling (born 1 April 1962) is a British Conservative Party politician and author serving as the Secretary of State for Transport since July 2016, and as a member of the House of Commons since 2001. He previously worked in the television industry.
Grayling was born in London and studied History at Cambridge University. He published a number of books as well as working for the BBC and Channel 4 before going into politics. A member of the Social Democratic Party until 1988, he then joined the Conservatives. First elected to Parliament in the 2001 general election for Epsom and Ewell, he was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet of David Cameron in 2005 as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.
From 2007 he became the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and in 2009 he was appointed Shadow Home Secretary. Following the 2010 general election and the formation of the Coalition Government, Grayling was made the Minister of State for Employment.
In September 2012, he was appointed to the UK Cabinet as the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from 2012 to 2015. He was the first non-lawyer to have served as Lord Chancellor for at least 440 years. He was the Leader of the House of Commons and the Lord President of the Council between 2015 and 2016.
Grayling was born in London and grew up in Buckinghamshire, where he was educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. He then went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he graduated with an upper-second class Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1984.
Grayling joined BBC News in 1985 as a trainee, becoming a producer in 1986. He left the BBC in 1988 to join Channel 4 as an editor on its Business Daily television programme. He rejoined the BBC in 1991 as a business development manager on BBC Select. On leaving the BBC again in 1993, he ran several television production companies, including managing the corporate communications division of Workhouse Ltd from 1992–95 and SSVC Group in Gerrards Cross from 1995–97.
He became a public relations consultant in 1997 with Burson Marsteller, where he remained until his election to Parliament. Prior to joining the Conservative Party, Grayling was a member of the Social Democratic Party.
Early political careerEdit
Borough Councillor (1998–2002)Edit
Grayling was selected to contest the Labour-held marginal seat of Warrington South at the 1997 general election, but was defeated by Labour candidate Helen Southworth by 10,807 votes. He was elected as a councillor for the Hillside ward in the London Borough of Merton in 1998 and remained on the council until 2002.
Elected Member of Parliament (2001)Edit
Grayling was elected to the House of Commons to represent the Surrey seat of Epsom and Ewell at the 2001 general election following the retirement of the veteran Tory MP Archie Hamilton. Grayling held the seat with a majority of 10,080 and has been returned as MP there since. He made his maiden speech on 25 June 2001.
Shadow Cabinet (2001–2010)Edit
Grayling served on the Environment, Transport and the Regions Select Committee from 2001 until he was promoted to the Opposition Whips' Office by Iain Duncan Smith in 2002, moving to become a Spokesman for Health later in the year. He became a Spokesman for Education and Skills by Michael Howard in 2003.
Following the 2005 general election he became a member of Howard's Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons; and after the election of David Cameron as the leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005 he served as the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport. In June 2007, he was made Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a post he held until January 2009 when he became Shadow Home Secretary.
Conservative "attack dog"Edit
Grayling became known as a national politician through his "attack dog" pressure on leading Labour politicians. He was heavily involved in the questioning of David Blunkett, the then Work and Pensions Secretary, over his business affairs which led to Blunkett's resignation in 2005.
Grayling also challenged Tony Blair and his wife Cherie over the money they made from lectures while Blair was Prime Minister. He also challenged minister Stephen Byers over his handling of the Railtrack collapse.
Between 2001 and 2009, Grayling claimed expenses for his flat in Pimlico, close to the Houses of Parliament, despite having a constituency home no further than 17 miles away. Grayling says he uses the flat when "working very late" because he needs to "work very erratic and late hours most days when the House of Commons is sitting." During the Parliamentary expenses scandal, The Daily Telegraph reported that Grayling refitted and redecorated the flat in 2005 costing over £5,000. Grayling's expenses issue was seen as embarrassing for the Conservative Party as he had previously criticised Labour ministers for being implicated in sleaze scandals.
Comparing Moss Side to The WireEdit
As Shadow Home Secretary, Grayling provoked controversy in August 2009 when he compared Manchester's Moss Side area to the American TV crime drama The Wire. His comments received angry responses from Manchester locals and police. Having been out on patrol for a day with the police, observing the results of a shooting at a house, he described himself as having witnessed an "urban war". Police responded that gang-related shootings in Greater Manchester had fallen by 82 percent from the previous year and that to speak of "urban war" was "sensationalistic".
A local councillor, Roy Walters, complained of Moss Side unfairly being a "negative target" due to historical associations. He was, however, defended by right wing commentators who said he spoke for the "mainstream majority". Sticking by his comments, Grayling said, "I didn't say Moss Side equals Baltimore. What I said is that we have in Moss Side symptoms of a gang conflict in this country which I find profoundly disturbing." Baltimore, with a population of about 600,000, was noted as having 191 gun related murders in the previous year, in comparison to Moss Side, population 17,537, which had none.
Grayling came under criticism as Shadow Home Secretary over the Conservative Party's use of statistics on violent crime. In February 2010, the Conservative Party issued press releases to every constituency in the UK claiming that crime had "risen sharply" in the UK. They failed, however, to take into account the more rigorous system for recording crime. The chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, said that the figures Grayling was using were "likely to mislead the public" and "likely to damage public trust in official statistics" as the way in which crime was calculated had been changed in 2002.
A Conservative-commissioned report by the independent House of Commons library suggested that, depending on how figures were calculated, Grayling's claims may have been justifiable and that violent crime may have risen in the period between 1998 and 2009. The incumbent Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, called Grayling's use of crime statistics "dodgy" and said that the British Crime Survey clearly showed that violent crime had reduced by 41% over the same period.
Gay couples in B&Bs controversyEdit
In March 2010, Grayling was recorded at an open meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank saying that during the debates on civil liberties under the Labour Government, he had felt that Christians should have the right to live by their consciences and that Christian owners of bed and breakfasts should have the right to turn away gay couples. Grayling said:
"I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home. If they are running a hotel on the high street, I really don't think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes."
When the recording was released by The Observer, on 3 April 2010, Grayling's comments caused an angry response from gay rights campaigners, with Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, saying that this position would be "illegal" and "very alarming to a lot of gay people who may have been thinking of voting Conservative". Lord Mandelson, the most senior gay minister in the (then Labour) Government, added that the comment showed that the Conservative Party had not changed, that "when the camera is on they say one thing, but when the camera is off they say another". Conservative Party leader David Cameron was subsequently urged to "back or sack" Grayling, with gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell saying that "Cameron's silence is worrying. Many voters – gay and straight – will be disturbed by his failure to swiftly disown Grayling's support for homophobic discrimination. What does this say about the sincerity and seriousness of his commitment to gay equality?"
Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, founder of LGBTory, a gay rights group which campaigns for the Conservatives, announced that she would be voting for Labour, not the Conservatives, in response to Grayling's comments. She said, "I feel guilty because as a gay woman affected by LGBT rights I am on record saying you should vote Conservative, and I want to reverse that. I want to go on record to say don't vote Conservative. I'd go as far to say that I'll vote Labour at this general election." Beaumont-Bott was joined in defecting from the Conservatives to Labour a week later by gay rights campaigner David Heathcote. Grayling's comments were defended by a number of commentators, including the Today Programme presenter and gay broadcaster Evan Davis and leading Christian groups.
Grayling apologised on 9 April 2010, saying: "I am sorry if what I said gave the wrong impression, I certainly didn't intend to offend anyone... I voted for gay rights, I voted for this particular measure." Various commentators speculated that he might have been "hidden away" by his party when he made relatively few public appearances in the days of the general election campaign that followed. It is unclear whether his remarks were the reason that David Cameron chose to appoint Theresa May as Home Secretary in his new Cabinet, rather than Grayling who held the position in the Shadow Cabinet; Grayling was not given any Cabinet post, as had been predicted by some media commentators prior to the election. On 31 January 2013, it was reported that Grayling would vote in favour of same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
Government Minister (2010–)Edit
Minister for Work and PensionsEdit
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On 28 May 2010, Grayling was sworn of the Privy Council in the 2010 Dissolution of Parliament Honours List. Grayling served as Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, from 2010 until 2012, before being promoted to the Cabinet, on 4 September 2012, as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. As minister at DWP he was responsible for jobcentres. Measures were introduced to reduce costs, leaving 100,000 staff redundant in offices around the country. In the context of a "Broken Society" he accused some families of being habitually unemployed, generation after generation, living in sink council estates in the inner cities. Government cuts were made to the DWP budgets in order to constrain welfare spending.
The policy later informed treatment of prisoners, refusing the right to vote, and clamping down on abusive behaviours in jails. He announced work programs for prisoners, encouraged an end to the "something for nothing culture". More people than ever were found fit to work as part of a package of measures in a £5 billion program to make work for the long-term unemployed.
Sworn in as Lord Chancellor on 1 October 2012 at Westminster Abbey, he was elected an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn on 11 December 2012, due in part to his lack of legal qualifications. He was the first non-lawyer to have served as Lord Chancellor for at least 440 years. (It was reported that the last such non-lawyer was the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1672–73; but the Earl was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1638.) Grayling's appointment was widely seen as a return to a more hard line approach than that of his predecessor, Clarke. Grayling pursued a "tough justice" agenda, including ending automatic early release for terrorists and child rapists, ending simple cautions for serious offences, and introducing greater protections for householders who defend themselves against intruders. The leading human rights barrister Lord Pannick described Grayling's performance as "notable only for his attempts to restrict judicial reviews and human rights, his failure to protect the judiciary against criticism from his colleagues and the reduction of legal aid to a bare minimum."
One of Grayling's first acts at the Ministry of Justice was to commence a project to change the way offenders were rehabilitated in an effort to cut reoffending rates. Under a system of "payment by results", private companies as well as charities were to play a greater role in looking after offenders on licence in the community. Grayling's ban on books being sent into UK prisons was widely criticised by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the literary establishment, including Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon, Anthony Horowitz, Susan Hill and Emma Donoghue. The ban was described as obscene by Shaun Attwood of the TV show Banged Up Abroad who read over a thousand books in prison and credited books for being the lifeblood of rehabilitation.
The move was defended as being not about a ban on books being sent into prison, but about parcels being sent in, as giving prisons access to the latter would almost certainly increase the amount of contraband getting into the prison estate. On stepping down from his role as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Harding criticised Grayling for "robustly" interfering with the contents of reports and Grayling's department for using financial controls to influence what was inspected, thereby threatening the independence of the Inspector's role.
Prison benchmarking and staff cutsEdit
A prison "benchmarking" programme was introduced in 2012 by Grayling to reduce the costs of public sector prisons to match comparable private sector prisons, along with associated new core standards intended to result in prisoners having similar amounts of time spent outside their cells across similar prisons. Prison officer numbers were reduced from about 23,000 in 2012 to about 18,000 in 2015.
In 2015 the Justice Select Committee, following a year long prison inquiry, were critical of Justice ministers for apparent complacency about a 38% rise in prison deaths since 2012. The committee concluded that efficiency savings and staffing shortages had made "a significant contribution to the deterioration in safety" in prisons.
A 'tough justice' agenda: court reformsEdit
Grayling's proposed cuts to legal aid were widely criticised by the legal profession. In May 2013, 90 Queen's Counsels signed a letter sent to the Daily Telegraph that branded the cuts "unjust", as they would seriously undermine the rule of law. 6 January 2014 saw the first strike in British history by barristers and solicitors in protest at the cuts. In February 2014, he introduced the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to the House of Commons. The Bill included measures to outlaw "revenge porn". In October 2014, Grayling unveiled the Conservative Party's proposals for reforms to human rights in order to curb the European Court of Human Rights' influence over British court rulings, whilst honouring the text of the original Convention on Human Rights in a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
In December 2013, Alan Turing was granted a pardon by the Queen, after a process initiated by Grayling in his capacity as Lord Chancellor. In April 2015, Grayling introduced mandatory flat-fee court charges for magistrates courts, the lowest fee being £150 for a guilty plea. Lawyers feared that defendants may plead guilty to avoid falling into debt, and the president of the Law Society described the change as a threat to fair trials. The charges for crown court were increased to £1,200.
Justice department security failureEdit
In January 2015, data relating to three fatal police shootings including details of marksmen and the deceased's family were lost in the post by the Justice Department. According to The Guardian it was particularly embarrassing for Grayling as the Government was claiming it needed to access personal data to deal with terrorism and could keep it securely. The data included details of the Mark Duggan shooting incident which had triggered the 2011 England riots.
Fathers 4 Justice protestsEdit
On multiple occasions in 2014 and 2015, Fathers 4 Justice protesters targeted Grayling's constituency home in Ashtead, Surrey in January and October 2015. Other incidents included a weekend protest camp set up outside his house by four protesters.
Leader of the House of CommonsEdit
After the 2015 general election, Grayling was appointed Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council. Michael Gove, who replaced Grayling as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, was reportedly unimpressed with Grayling's "innovations".
Grayling was appointed as Transport Secretary by new PM Theresa May in July 2016. In December 2016, he blocked a move by the London Mayor Sadiq Khan to give control of the metro services run by Southeastern to TfL. A leaked letter revealed that in 2013, Grayling wrote to then-London Mayor Boris Johnson saying that he opposed such a move because it could put those services "in the clutches of a Labour mayor". The leak led to Grayling being accused of putting his party's political interests over those of the public and commuters, as well as members of his own party calling for his resignation.
Following criticism of a major rail timetable change, which resulted in the resignation of Charles Horton, Chief Executive of Govia Thameslink Railway, Grayling faced a vote of confidence in the House of Commons on 19 June 2018, with the resulting division 305–285 in Grayling's favour.
Following the December 2018 Gatwick Airport drone incident The Times reported that Grayling had ignored "numerous warnings" about the threat posed by drones, halting draft legislation due for publication in early 2019 thereby allowing civil servants to be diverted to Brexit related tasks. According to the Daily Telegraph, the RAF offered the assistance of a specialist anti-drone team almost immediately but Grayling's department – which would have had to pay for the service – was reluctant to accept.
In a Radio 4 Today interview in January 2019 he supported a decision, in preparation for a Brexit no-deal, to award a £13.8 million ferry contract to Seaborne Freight, a company which had never run a ferry service and owned no ships. The BBC reported that the government had shortened the normal tendering process due to "a situation of extreme urgency" and only received a single bid. The Road Haulage Association described the firm as having an impossible timescale in which to "source ferries, hire and train staff and link with relevant authorities". Despite Grayling's assurance that the usual procurement due diligence procedures had been followed, it was later revealed that Seaborne Freight issued terms and conditions designed for a food delivery business not ferries, and that its chief executive previously ran a ship chartering business that was forced into liquidation following court petitions from HM Revenue and Customs. The amount of unpaid tax was not stated, but the former company had a total of £1.78 million in unpaid debts.
Grayling is married to Susan Clare Dillistone and has two sons.
- The Bridgewater Heritage: The Story of Bridgewater Estates by Christopher Grayling, 1983, Bridgewater Estates PLC
- A Land Fit for Heroes: Life in England After the Great War by Christopher Grayling, 1985, Buchan & Enright ISBN 0-907675-68-9
- Holt's: The Story of Joseph Holt by Christopher Grayling, 1985, Joseph Holt PLC
- Just Another Star?: Anglo-American Relations Since 1945 by Christopher Grayling and Christopher Langdon, 1987, Virgin Books ISBN 0-245-54603-0
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- Grayling's official constituency website
- Epsom and Ewell Conservatives website
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Article archive at The Guardian
- Listing in Debrett's People of Today
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
for Epsom and Ewell
| Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
| Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
| Shadow Home Secretary
as Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform
| Minister of State for Employment
| Secretary of State for Justice
| Lord Chancellor|
| Leader of the House of Commons
| Lord President of the Council|
| Secretary of State for Transport