New Forest East



By Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor

The Times – 16 July 2020

When Julian Lewis finally emerged to account for his extraordinary coup at the Intelligence and Security Committee, he did so through that most traditional of media methods – a statement to the Press Association. Mr Lewis, 68, is not on social media and has eschewed email since it was invented, regarding it as “insecure” and “unsatisfactory”. In the world of Twitter, Facebook and 24/7 communications, Mr Lewis prefers to communicate by letter or fax.

In his statement Mr Lewis, who has been stripped of the whip by the Conservative Party, did not hold back. He accused Boris Johnson of making an “improper request” to make his “preferred candidate” – Chris Grayling, the former Transport Secretary – chairman.

Downing Street, however, is not in the mood for forgiveness. Mr Lewis, who has always been ferociously independent-minded, now finds himself an independent MP amid accusations that he “colluded” with Labour MPs to secure his election.

Few MPs on the Tory benches are more steeped in the world of security and defence than Mr Lewis. He grew up in Swansea and was awarded a doctorate in 1981 after reading philosophy and politics at Oxford. He later specialised in strategic studies and has written two books on military and defence issues.

He became the Tory MP for New Forest East in May 1997 and spent eight years as Shadow Defence Minister. Mr Lewis led a successful campaign in 2008 to prevent MPs’ home addresses being available to the public, saying the matter had “nothing to do with expenses and everything to do with security”.

When David Cameron became Prime Minister Mr Lewis missed out on promotion to a ministerial role. He instead immersed himself in the world of defence and security, campaigning from the back benches for increased defence spending and serving on the Intelligence and Security Committee between 2010 and 2015. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

While Mr Lewis’s extraordinary ambush at the Intelligence and Security Committee may have taken No 10 by surprise, allies point out, he has always been independent-minded. He counts John Bercow, the former Speaker who was a vocal critic of the Prime Minister, as one of his best friends.