Maria Colette Caulfield (born 6 August 1973) is a Conservative Party politician and a supporter of the ERG, and nurse. She was first elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Lewes in 2015. She was given the role of Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) Vice Chair for Women on 8 January 2018, until her resignation on 10 July 2018 in protest at the Brexit strategy of the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
|Vice Chairman of the |
Conservative Party for Women
8 January 2018 – 10 July 2018
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Succeeded by||Helen Whately|
|Member of Parliament|
8 May 2015 – 6 November 2019
|Preceded by||Norman Baker|
|Succeeded by||Election in progress|
|Born||6 August 1973|
Lambeth, London, England
Early life and careerEdit
Maria Caulfield was born on 6 August 1973 to Irish immigrant parents and grew up on in a working class area of Wandsworth, London. Her father was from a farming family, but after his emigration worked as a builder while her mother was a nurse.
While Caulfield was in her teens, her mother died from breast cancer and after leaving school she became an NHS nurse. She has spoken about her upbringing saying that she "grew up in a run-down area of South London where the only careers advice given to us was the phone number of the local council housing office for when you became a single mum and needed a council flat".
As a nurse, she eventually specialised in cancer research and moved to the south coast of England where she worked at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital and then the Royal Marsden. She became involved with the Conservative Party after joining a campaign to save local hospitals in the Brighton area.
In the 2007 Brighton and Hove City Council election, Caulfield stood as a Conservative Party candidate and became a member of the local city council for the previously safe Labour ward of Moulsecoomb - winning by just one vote. She served in the cabinet of the then Conservative authority and held the Housing Portfolio. In the following 2011 local election she lost her seat to the Labour Party candidate by over 600 votes.
At the 2010 general election she unsuccessfully stood in the Caerphilly constituency, a safe Labour seat, coming second to Wayne David, the defending sitting MP. She had been shortlisted for the position of Conservative Party candidate for Gosport in the previous year. She received criticism from local political rivals for both campaigns on the grounds that her focus should be on her council work in Brighton.
In 2013, she was selected for the constituency of Lewes by the Lewes Conservative Association, and at the 2015 general election she overturned a 7,647 majority and defeated the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker. She was re-elected at the 2017 general election.
In September 2017, she faced criticism after she hosted a Parliamentary event with the Royal College of Nursing to gain support for scrapping the below inflation cap on nurses pay but did not take part in a parliamentary debate on this. Defending her position, Caulfield argued the only way to lift the nurses' pay cap would be during a meaningful budget vote.
On 8 January 2018, Caulfield was appointed the Conservative Campaign Headquarters' Vice Chair for Women; the appointment was criticised by Women's rights groups, including the Women's Equality Party, because she had opposed a Ten Minute Rule bill in March 2017 which sought to allow abortion to term and for voting in 2015 with the government to oppose the removal of the so-called tampon tax, currently levied on female sanitary products as the UK can currently not zero rate VAT on these products while a member of the EU  She later submitted her letter of resignation from this position on 10 July 2018 in protest at the Brexit strategy of the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Caulfield employs her husband as her office manager. The practice of MPs employing family members, has been criticised by some sections of the media on the lines that it promotes nepotism. Although MPs who were first elected in 2017 have been banned from employing family members, the restriction is not retrospective - meaning that Caulfield's employment of her husband is lawful.
She lives with her husband Steve Bell, an ex-serviceman and former builder, who now works as her Office Manager. He is also a Brighton and Hove City Councillor, as well as being active in the voluntary party and was President (2015–16) of the Conservative National Convention, the organizing body of the voluntary party. She is also a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.
Caulfield is an urban shepherdess, part of an environmental project which uses sheep and cattle to graze public open spaces. She also holds a non-executive director position on the board of the housing charity BHT Sussex. She supports Arsenal and Lewes football clubs, and is a shareholder of the latter.
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