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Helen Grant (born 28 September 1961[2]) is a British Conservative Party politician. She has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidstone and The Weald since 2010, when she succeeded Ann Widdecombe.

Helen Grant

Official portrait of Mrs Helen Grant crop 2.jpg
Minister for Sport and Tourism
In office
7 October 2013 – 12 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byHugh Robertson
Succeeded byTracey Crouch
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice
In office
4 September 2012 – 7 October 2013
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byJonathan Djanogly
Succeeded byShailesh Vara
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities
In office
4 September 2012 – 8 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byLynne Featherstone
Succeeded byCaroline Dinenage
Member of Parliament
for Maidstone and The Weald
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byAnn Widdecombe
Majority17,704 (34.2%)
Personal details
Born (1961-09-28) 28 September 1961 (age 57)
Willesden, Middlesex, England
Political partyConservative (2006–present)
Labour (2004–2006)
Spouse(s)Simon Grant[1]
Alma materUniversity of Hull

Grant was the first black woman of mixed heritage to be elected as a Conservative MP and selected as a candidate to stand for a Conservative-held parliamentary seat.[3] She first served in government as jointly Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (from 2012 to 2015) and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (2012 to 2013). She also became Minister for Sport and Tourism in 2013, a post she held until after the 2015 general election.


Early life and careerEdit

Grant was born in Willesden, north London to an English mother and a Nigerian father, who was an orthopedic surgeon. She grew up in a single parent family after her parents separated and her father emigrated to the United States.[4] She was raised in Carlisle where she lived on the city's Raffles council estate with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She said in a 2008 interview with the Daily Mail that she was the victim of racist bullying at school.[4] In a 2010 interview she spoke fondly of her childhood, and the house in which she grew up. "I had happy memories in that house and it gave me a good start in life, [...] There was deprivation around, there was certainly need, there was some domestic violence and there were some fights. But my memory of the square where we lived is that there was pride in people."[5]

At St Aidan's County High School (since 2008 the Richard Rose Central Academy) she was captain of the school tennis and hockey teams, and represented Cumbria in hockey, tennis, athletics, and cross-country. She was also an under-16 judo champion for the north of England and southern Scotland. She studied law at the University of Hull, after which she planned to take specialist legal qualifications. When it appeared unlikely that her local education authority would fund a place at her preferred college, her local MP Willie Whitelaw championed her cause,[4] and she took a place at the College of Law in Guildford.

Grant undertook her articles of clerkship at Cartmell, Mawson & Main solicitors in Carlisle, where she qualified as a solicitor.[3] She then joined a legal practice in Wimbledon specialising in family law. She established her own practice, Grants Solicitors, in 1996, which also specialises in family law.[6] She has subsequently said that as a practising lawyer she saw a 'huge amount' of domestic violence, and that it had a 'huge effect' on her subsequent Ministerial role.[7]

Grant joined the Labour Party in 2004 and was asked by a senior local party figure to consider becoming a local councillor, but she rejected the idea. She offered the local party the use of her company's telephones in late 2004 prior to the 2005 general election. She claimed, however, they showed little interest, and that this left her feeling disillusioned with Labour. She joined the Conservatives in 2006, and later said of her membership of Labour: "It was almost looking in the biscuit barrel, not liking the look of the biscuits, and slamming the lid shut".[6]

Grant was a non-executive director of the Croydon NHS Primary Care Trust from January 2005 to March 2007 before stepping down to concentrate on her political career.[8]

In 2006, Grant worked with Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice in the formation of Conservative policy to deal with family breakdown. Grant was one of the authors of the Social Justice Policy Group Report 'State of the Nation – Fractured Families' published in December 2006, and the follow-up solutions report 'Breakthrough Britain' published in July 2007.[8]

Parliamentary careerEdit

Grant applied to become a parliamentary candidate,[6] and was approved as a candidate in May 2006. She was selected by the Conservative Party as the prospective candidate for Maidstone and The Weald in January 2008, as the candidate to succeed longstanding MP Ann Widdecombe who had announced that she would be stepping down at the next general election.[4] She was the first black woman to be selected to defend a Conservative seat, which at the time had a majority of 15,000.[9] She was selected as an A-List candidate and, although she was publicly supported by the sitting MP, Widdecombe criticised David Cameron's policy of ensuring 50% of the Conservatives' A-list candidates were women—a policy thought to have helped Grant win the nomination. This was quickly followed by revelations from a Sunday newspaper regarding her previous membership of Labour.[6]

Grant was elected as the Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald at the 2010 general election on 6 May 2010, achieving a reduced majority of 5,889.[10] Her election made her the Conservative Party's first black woman MP.[3] In June 2010, she was elected to the Justice Select Committee,[11] a House of Commons select committee which oversees the policy, administration, and spending of the UK's Ministry of Justice.

On 4 September 2012, following a Government reshuffle, Grant was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, and Women and Equality.[12] She has been described as the 'Minister for Victims' of crime, and states her role as to 'look after the interests of victims and witnesses of any crime, including domestic violence, sexual violence and rape.'.[7]

On 7 October 2013, Grant was appointed Sports and Equalities minister succeeding Hugh Robertson. She is a former judo champion, and told The Independent newspaper that sport was "very much in my DNA".[13] However, the following month when quizzed by her regional news television station ITV Meridian, she failed to answer a single question correctly on the subject.[14]

On 12 May 2015, following the general election, Grant was removed from her position as Sports Minister and was replaced by her neighbouring MP and colleague Tracey Crouch.[15]

Grant was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 EU membership referendum.[16]

Expenses controversy 2012Edit

Grant attracted controversy in November 2012 when an edition of the Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches reported that she was according to published records claiming the full £1,666.67/month[17] under MPs expenses – the maximum allowed within the IPSA rules – for a flat in London, when she has a home in Kingswood, Surrey, near Reigate.[18] Kingswood is located within a zone around London in which MPs cannot claim expenses for a London rental, but it is allowed in her case because she represents Maidstone and the Weald, which is outside the exclusion zone.[17] At that time Grant used a base bordering her constituency, where her mother lives and her son also lived while at school in Maidstone until 2013.[17] IPSA confirmed that Grant was entitled to a second-home allowance on Parliamentary expenses because her constituency was outside London, and her claim was within the rules.[17] However, Labour MP John Mann, a long-standing campaigner on MPs' expenses, described the minister's actions as "outrageous" and a "farce":[17]

However, Mann's comments were countered by the Reigate MP Crispin Blunt. He said: "Helen has a substantial ministerial portfolio, constituents, a constituency and family responsibilities to manage. Her arrangements are not analogous to mine". "These are part of the trade-offs that MPs and ministers have to make all the time to try to meet all the competing demands on them. Frankly, I think this is a pretty cheap shot by Dispatches and I would hope you would be sympathetic to someone who has done a considerable public service, by moving from a successful professional service business into public service at significant expense to herself and her family".[19]

IPSA controversyEdit

Grant was also involved in controversy after the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority found that the standard employment contract template for the majority of her staff had been amended although her husband, who was also employed by her, remained on an unaltered contract.[20] A member of staff requiring time off for a medical condition discovered their contract had been amended to offer only two weeks' sick pay rather than the IPSA contract standard of 26 weeks.[21]

Grant initially refused to comment on the claim[21] although the Ministry of Justice stated that the changes to contracts were an attempt to provide a "fairer deal" for taxpayers.[21] IPSA stated that the contract should not have been changed.[21] Grant's husband resigned from his position after it was revealed he remained on an unaltered contract, and had known about the discrepancy for two months without informing his wife.[20] It was claimed that this was due to "oversight on his part rather than design" and he had not received any benefits from remaining on the unaltered contract.[20]

Personal lifeEdit

Grant met her husband, Simon, in 1990,[4] and the couple, who married in 1991, have two sons,[22] one of whom was serving in the Royal Marines in April 2013.[7] They have a home in Kingswood, Surrey and in the constituency in Marden, Kent.


  1. ^ "The Register of Members' Financial Interests: Part 2: As at 24th January 2011". HM Government of the United Kingdom. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Helen Grant MP". BBC Democracy Live. BBC. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Whittle, Julian (7 May 2010). "Ex-Carlisle mum wins 'safe' seat to become Tories first black woman MP". News & Star. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e Oliver, Sarah (27 January 2008). "She was beaten up for being black ... but Tory contender Helen Grant says she'll never play the race card". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  5. ^ Thorpe, Caroline (20 July 2010). "Humble Helen". Inside Housing. Archived from the original on 2 August 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Barkham, Patrick (29 August 2008). "'I always knew I was different'". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  7. ^ a b c "Work/Life: Helen Grant MP, Minister for Victims". Stylist Magazine. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Helen Grant". Conservative Party. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  9. ^ Pierce, Andrew (22 January 2010). "Lawyer set to be Tories' first black woman MP". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  10. ^ "Grant retains Maidstone and Weald seat for Tories". Kent News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Ashmore, John (25 June 2010). "Labour and Tories choose Select Committee members". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  12. ^ Stewart, Louise (5 September 2012). "Reshuffle reignites south east aviation row". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  13. ^ Hubbard, Alan (12 October 2013). "Helen Grant exclusive interview: From being bullied to being Sports Minister". The Independent. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  14. ^ Dominiczak, Peter (26 November 2013). "Who won FA Cup? No idea, says sports minister Helen Grant". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  15. ^ Staff writer (12 May 2015). "Helen Grant loses sports portfolio". The Voice. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  16. ^ Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  17. ^ a b c d e Staff writer (19 November 2012). "MPs' expenses: Minister Helen Grant defends claim". BBC News. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  18. ^ Anthony Barnett (19 November 2012). MPs: Are They Still at It? (Television). Dispatches. Channel 4. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  19. ^ Surrey Mirror (22 November 2012). "MP leaps defend colleague". Surrey Mirror. Archived from the original on 11 June 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  20. ^ a b c Staff writer (28 November 2012). "Maidstone MP Helen Grant's husband quits over sick pay". BBC News. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  21. ^ a b c d Staff writer (5 November 2012). "Equalities Minister Helen Grant criticised over sick pay". BBC News. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  22. ^ "Who's Who 2013: GRANT, Helen". A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, December 2012. November 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ann Widdecombe
Member of Parliament for Maidstone & The Weald