Desmond Swayne

Sir Desmond Angus Swayne TD VR (born 20 August 1956)[1] is a British Conservative politician serving as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of New Forest West since 1997.[2]

Sir Desmond Swayne

Official portrait of Sir Desmond Swayne crop 2.jpg
Swayne in 2017
Minister of State for International Development
In office
14 July 2014 – 17 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byAlan Duncan
Succeeded byRory Stewart
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
In office
7 October 2013 – 14 July 2014
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byGreg Knight
Succeeded byAnne Milton
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
4 September 2012 – 7 October 2013
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byMichael Fabricant
Succeeded bySam Gyimah
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
12 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byJon Trickett &
Anne Snelgrove
Succeeded bySam Gyimah
Member of Parliament
for New Forest West
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded byConstituency created
Majority24,403 (48.5%)
Personal details
Born (1956-08-20) 20 August 1956 (age 64)[1]
Political partyConservative
Moira Cecily Teek
(m. 1987)
Alma materUniversity of St Andrews
AwardsTerritorial Decoration
Iraq Medal
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Volunteer Reserve Service Medal
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/serviceRoyal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry
Years of service1978–

Before going into politics, he was a teacher, and then a manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Cameron, both during his time as Leader of the Opposition, 2005–10, and then for two years while Cameron was Prime Minister. In September 2012 he was appointed as Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury and in July 2014 as Minister for International Development. In June 2016, it was announced that Swayne would receive a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours for political services.

He is a supporter of the Eurosceptic pressure group Leave Means Leave.[3] He is also a prominent critic of the British government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[4]

Early life and careerEdit

Desmond Angus Swayne was born on 20 August 1956 to George Joseph and Elizabeth McAlister Swayne (née Gibson).[5] He was privately educated at Drumley House Preparatory School at Mossblown in South Ayrshire and Bedford School. He studied Theology at St Mary's College at the University of St Andrews.[6]

He taught economics at the Charterhouse School for one year followed by seven years at Wrekin College (both independent boarding schools).[7] From 1987 to 1997, he was a computer systems manager at Royal Bank of Scotland.[7][8]

Military careerEdit

On 2 August 1987, he was commissioned into the Royal Armoured Corps, Territorial Army in the rank of second lieutenant (on probation).[9] He served with the Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry.[10] He was promoted to lieutenant on 2 August 1989,[11] and to captain on 1 August 1992.[12] On 1 November 1992, he transferred to the newly formed Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry.[13] He was promoted to major on 14 December 1996 with seniority from 1 January 1996.[14]

In 2003, he was called up and posted to Iraq as part of the Iraq War.[15] He served for six months before returning to the House of Commons.[8]

Parliamentary careerEdit

Swayne unsuccessfully contested the constituency of Pontypridd for the Conservative Party in the 1987 general election, before seeking office in the constituency of West Bromwich West in the 1992 general election, where he was defeated by the Labour incumbent Betty Boothroyd, who became Speaker of the House of Commons shortly afterwards. However, he was successfully elected to the seat of New Forest West at the 1997 general election. In the 1997 Conservative Party leadership election, Swayne supported Michael Howard, and later John Redwood.[7] He held the seat to serve his seventh consecutive term in the 2019 general election.

From 1997 to 2001, he held shadow ministerial portfolios for Northern Ireland, health and defence and as a senior opposition whip. From 2001 to 2005, Swayne was Parliamentary Private Secretary to both Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard in their role as Leader of the Opposition.[6]

Following the election of David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005, he was appointed as his PPS.[6] This position involved being the eyes and ears of Cameron in the House of Commons and reporting back on observations and requests from colleagues. In 2006, a series of Swayne's e-mails to Cameron with unflattering descriptions of fellow Conservatives were leaked to the media.[16]

He maintained his role as a PPS in government.[17] On 11 June 2011, it was announced Swayne would be appointed a Privy Counsellor in the Queen's 2011 Birthday Honours List.[18] On 13 July 2011, Swayne was duly sworn of Council.[19] In 2014, he was appointed as a minister for international development.[20]

In addition to his salary as an MP, Swayne earns £12,000 a year as a director of property development firm Lewis Charles Sofia Property Fund, which predominantly specialises in holiday developments in Bulgaria; and around £5,000 in his role as a major in the Army Reserve.[21]

In the House of Commons he sits on the Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee). He has previously sat on the International Trade Committee, the Administration Committee, the Defence Committee, the Procedure Committee, the Social Security Committee and Scottish Affairs Committee.[22]

As a result of the expenses scandal, Swayne repaid £6,131 he claimed for a new kitchen in 2006 on his second-home flat in North Kensington, and £60.66 over claimed for a water bill.[21] Swayne employs his wife Moira as part-time Executive Secretary/Office Manager.[23] Swayne provided a full breakdown of his expenses on his website, and was found by local media in New Forest/South Dorset to be the lowest claiming of the local MP expenses' league table, after claiming £94,754 expenses in 2007/08, compared with £91,737 in 2006/07.[24]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

Swayne argues that the COVID-19 virus is not as serious to the general population as is widely believed. He has been very critical of the UK government's response to the pandemic, especially the lockdown response after 24 March 2020. Swayne believes that the government should have taken a softer approach, including keeping shops and public spaces open as had the Swedish government, and that the government's lockdown measures and policies were disproportionate to the threat posed by the virus. He argues against restrictions on the public from a socially Libertarian position.

In a speech in parliament on 28 September 2020, Swayne stated that “ the policy of the government has been disproportionate in response to this threat. There may be a virus one day that threatens our very way of life, but this is not it, even if we are behaving as if it were.” Furthermore, he argued that the government had been following the advice of small group of scientists without doing their job as politicians and imposing "a sense of proportion” and “not be in thrall” of science.[4][25]

Swayne believes that the Coronavirus law requiring the public to wear face masks in indoor public places was "a monstrous imposition" on civil liberties. The law was made with the intention of making people feel more confident going back into public, but Swayne argued that it actually made him want to shop less.[26]

Furthermore, he believes that there has been "censorship" of opposing arguments or criticisms of the lockdown policies. On 15 October 2020 Swayne asked the Leader of the House of Commons if a debate could be held on 'censorship' due to "the sinister disappearance of the link from Google to the Great Barrington declaration".[27][28][29]

Personal lifeEdit

Swayne married Moira Cecily Teek in 1987. They have one son and two daughters.[5][8]

Honours and decorationsEdit

Swayne is a recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, the Iraq Medal, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has also received the Territorial Decoration for 12 years' service in the Territorial Army.[citation needed] In June 2009, he was awarded the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal.[30]

Swayne was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for political and parliamentary service.[31]


Ribbon Description Notes
  Knight Bachelor (Kt)
  • 10 June 2016
  • For Political and Parliamentary Service
  Iraq Medal
  Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
  • 2002
  • UK Version of this Medal
  Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2012
  • UK Version of this Medal
  Territorial Decoration (TD)
  Volunteer Reserves Service Medal


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, Swayne 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.[32]

On 28 September 2019, he remarked that "blackface" was an "entirely acceptable bit of fun".[33] On 30 September, it was reported that he wore blackface while attending a Blues Brothers themed party, where he was pictured posing as James Brown.[34] Swayne later said he "went to some trouble to be as authentic as possible" in creating the costume, before refusing to apologise.[35]


  1. ^ a b "Desmond Swayne". BBC News. 17 October 2002. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  2. ^ "Desmond Swayne retains New Forest West seat - but issues warning to his party". Southern Daily Echo. Newsquest Media Group. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Co-Chairmen - Political Advisory Board - Supporters". Leave Means Leave. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b Deacon, Michael (28 September 2020). "'Project Fear!' How a Tory MP silenced the Commons with a furious rebuke of Whitty and Vallance". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Swayne, Rt Hon. Sir Desmond (Angus)". A & C Black. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "Desmond Swayne". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Waller, Robert; Criddle, Byron (1999). The Almanac of British Politics. Psychology Press. p. 502. ISBN 978-0-415-18541-7.
  8. ^ a b c Bax, Tahmeena; Anyangwe, Eliza (16 July 2014). "Who is Desmond Swayne? Introducing Britain's new development minister". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  9. ^ "No. 51115". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 November 1987. p. 13839.
  10. ^ "No. 51609". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 January 1989. p. 328.
  11. ^ "No. 51890". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 October 1989. p. 11305.
  12. ^ "No. 53054". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 September 1992. p. 15840.
  13. ^ "No. 53192". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 February 1993. p. 1866.
  14. ^ "No. 54718". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 March 1997. p. 3878.
  15. ^ "MP to serve in Iraq". BBC News. 19 June 2003. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  16. ^ Oakeshott, Isabel (9 July 2006). "Tories lost in swirl of backbiting". The Times. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  17. ^ Government publishes list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) Prime Minister's Office, 17 November 2010
  18. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 1.
  19. ^ Privy Council Office — Orders for 13 July 2011 Privy Council, 13 July 2011
  20. ^ "Who is Desmond Swayne? Introducing Britain's new development minister". The Guardian. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  21. ^ a b ""Politicians should rely on taxpayer" says New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne". This is Hampshire. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  22. ^ "Desmond Swayne". Parliament UK. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  23. ^ "Desmond Swayne". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  24. ^ "What is the cost of our MPs?". Dorset Echo. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  25. ^ Waller, Jon (2 October 2020). "MP Swayne calls to sack government scientists' over coronavirus warning 'project fear'". Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Face coverings to be compulsory in England's shops". BBC News. 14 July 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  27. ^ Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) (13 October 2020), volume 682; column 513, "Business of the House - Hansard", Hansard, retrieved 17 October 2020, Can we have a debate on censorship? Then we would be able to discuss the sinister disappearance of the link from Google to the Great Barrington declaration, couldn't we?
  28. ^ The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg) (13 October 2020), volume 682; column 513, "Business of the House - Hansard", Hansard, retrieved 17 October 2020, My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the question of censorship. The Government are sceptical about the Barrington declaration, but that does not mean that people should not be free to discuss it, and it is a worrying trend for large internet operators to think that they should be the arbiters of free speech. It is not for them to arbitrate over free speech. It is perhaps even more troubling that they are sometimes slow to take down material that could damage children, but they are not so slow to take down things that they do not agree with politically, and that raises important questions.
  29. ^ Press Association. "Jacob Rees-Mogg condemns Welsh First Minister's 'unconstitutional' border plan". Helensburgh Advertiser. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  30. ^ "No. 59106". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 June 2009. pp. 10705–10706.
  31. ^ "No. 61608". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2016. p. B2.
  32. ^ "Tories vote down law requiring landlords make their homes fit for human habitation". Independent. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  33. ^ Swayne, Desmond (28 September 2019). "Blackface is an 'entirely acceptable bit of fun', says Conservative MP". MSN UK. Archived from the original on 29 September 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  34. ^ Ward, Victoria; Hope, Christopher (30 September 2019). "Exclusive picture: Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne 'blacked up' as soul singer James Brown". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  35. ^ "Trudeau's Turban". Retrieved 1 October 2019.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for New Forest West