Gisela Stuart (née Gschaider; born 26 November 1955) is a British Labour Party politician, who served as the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston from 1997 until stepping down at the 2017 general election. Born and raised in West Germany, she has lived in the UK since 1974.
Stuart in 2008
|Member of Parliament|
for Birmingham Edgbaston
1 May 1997 – 3 May 2017
|Preceded by||Jill Knight|
|Succeeded by||Preet Gill|
26 November 1955
Velden, Bavaria, West Germany
|Occupation||Chair, Change Britain|
Stuart was Chair of the Vote Leave Campaign Committee and leader with Conservative MP Michael Gove. The Vote Leave campaign was successful in achieving its primary goal at the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. Since September 2016, Stuart has served as Chair of Vote Leave's successor organisation, Change Britain.
Since 2015, she has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Constitution Reform Group, a cross-party pressure group chaired by Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, which seeks a new constitutional settlement in the UK. The Constitution Reform Group’s Act of Union Bill 2018 was introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Lord Lisvane in the House of Lords on 9 October 2018, when it received a formal first reading. The Bill is currently awaiting a date for its second reading.
After doing an apprenticeship in bookselling, she moved to the UK in 1974 in order to improve her English and to do a Business Studies course at Manchester Polytechnic. She was deputy director of the 1983 London Book Fair. Stuart subsequently relocated to the Midlands.
She graduated from the University of London with an LLB in 1993, having studied through the University of London External System. She began researching for a PhD in trust law (ownership of pension funds) at the University of Birmingham while she also lectured Law to AAT students at Worcestershire College, but did not complete her PhD and instead went into politics full-time.
In 1995, Stuart was selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for the Birmingham Edgbaston constituency. The constituency, which had once been held by former Conservative Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1937–40), had returned only Conservative MPs for 99 years. The sitting Conservative MP at the time, Dame Jill Knight, was retiring after 31 years. On 1 May 1997, Stuart was elected as the first-ever Labour MP for the constituency, making it one of a succession of traditional Conservative seats to fall to Labour control in a landslide victory for the party. Stuart's victory was the first televised Labour gain of the evening.
During the first Tony Blair ministry, Stuart served on the Social Security Select Committee and in 1998 as PPS to Home Office Minister of State Paul Boateng, before joining the Cabinet in 1999 as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health. Stuart left this post in the Cabinet reshuffle that followed after the 2001 United Kingdom general election. Her election agent in that election was John Clancy, who became leader of Birmingham City Council in 2015.
In Blair's second ministry, Stuart was appointed as one of the UK Parliamentary Representatives to the European Convention, which was tasked with drawing up a new constitution for the European Union. In this capacity, Stuart also served as one of the thirteen members of the Convention's Presidium - the steering group responsible for managing the business of the Convention.
When the draft Constitution emerged, Stuart was one of the most trenchant critics of the proposal, stating that it had been drawn up by a "self-selected group of the European political elite" determined to deepen European integration. She subsequently expounded these views in a 2004 Fabian Society pamphlet, The Making of Europe's Constitution. Consequently, she has argued in favour of British withdrawal from the European Union, becoming one of the leading Eurosceptic figures in the Labour Party. In the BBC's two-hour televised debate on the EU referendum, Stuart appeared on the "Leave" panel, along with the Conservative MPs Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson.
Between 2001 and 2010, Stuart also served as a member of the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.
She retained her seat at the 2005 United Kingdom general election but her majority was halved in both percentage and numerical terms. Despite the predictions of the pundits, Stuart went on to retain the seat at the 2010 general election, against a national tide of Labour defeat. The election resulted in the first hung parliament in 36 years, with the Conservatives having the most seats. It earned her the title of Survivor of the Year at The Spectator magazine's 2010 Parliamentarian of the Year awards, which was presented to her by the new Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron. She retained her seat at the 2015 United Kingdom general election with a majority of 2,706 votes, more than double her majority from 2010. She joined the Commons Select Committee on Defence.
In October 2004, she became the only Labour MP who openly supported the re-election of George W. Bush at that year's U.S. presidential election, arguing "you know where you stand with George and, in today's world, that's much better than rudderless leaders who drift with the prevailing wind". She wrote that a victory for Democratic Party challenger, John Kerry, would prompt "victory celebrations among those who want to destroy liberal democracies. More terrorists and suicide bombers would step forward to become martyrs in their quest to destroy the West".
Stuart is a signatory of the Henry Jackson Society principles, which promote the spread of liberal democracy across the world and the maintenance of a strong military with global expeditionary reach. She is the editor of the weekly political magazine The House.
She announced on 19 April 2017 that she would not seek re-election at the 2017 snap general election. She was succeeded by Preet Gill, a British Labour Co-operative politician, and the first female British Sikh MP.
Stuart served as Chair of the successful Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 European Union membership referendum, which opposed the Labour Party Labour In for Britain campaign. Stuart served as a principal figurehead for Vote Leave, along with Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
Her position as Chair of Vote Leave made her by far the most prominent Labour MP in the Leave Campaign, as she was the only one to join the official Leave campaign at all. Most of the other ten Labour MPs that defied the party line on the EU joined the fringe group Labour Leave, which had a far more marginal role in the referendum. Consequently, Stuart was the only Labour MP to take part in the official events, such as the televised debates, on behalf of the Leave side.
As chair of Vote Leave she said: "Rather than sending money abroad to countries that want to join the EU, I believe we should be spending our money on our priorities here in the UK. Instead of giving an extra 88 million people - more than our entire population - access to the NHS I believe it would be safer to take back control. We should give our struggling NHS the £350m we send to the EU every week".
In spite of her prominent position in the Leave campaign, her constituency of Birmingham Edgbaston voted to Remain in the EU.
After stepping down at the 2017 general election, Stuart revealed that she had pushed for an exit clause in the European Constitution, which later became Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 50 allows for withdrawal from the European Union by any member state and was invoked for the first and only time by Prime Minister Theresa May on 29 March 2017.
In a book entitled How to Lose a Referendum published on its first anniversary in June 2017, Stuart described the EU referendum as an “abuse of democratic process” and said she would rather it had never been called. In response to the question if, with the benefit of hindsight, she now thought that David Cameron should have called the referendum, she said, “No. The way he called that referendum was an abuse of democratic processes. It really was. I’ve never gone through a voting process where the losers demand of the winners that they explain themselves. This is what happened with the referendum, because you had a binary question.” She continued, “You had no bodies accountable for an outcome …This notion that you can create these campaigning groups that aren’t established political parties. Immediately after the referendum with Vote Leave, we resigned as directors and the whole thing was shut down. And that’s not good democracy.”
How Stuart voted on key matters since 2001:
- Voted for introducing a smoking ban
- Voted for introducing ID cards
- Voted for introducing foundation hospitals
- Voted for introducing student top-up fees
- Voted for Labour's anti-terrorism laws
- Voted for the Iraq War
- Voted against investigating the Iraq War
- Voted for replacing the Trident nuclear programme
- Voted for ban on fox hunting
- Voted for equal gay rights
- Voted for leaving the European Union
Outside of politicsEdit
Stuart became the Chair of Wilton Park on 1 October 2018.
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|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston