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  1. James Edward David Manning was born on 3rd December 1967, the product of a union between Derrick George Solomon Manning and Elizabeth Mary Annabelle Knight. The couple were unmarried, had a tumultuous relationship, and were of different social strata; Derrick was from an impoverished background and working as a casual labourer. Elizabeth, by contrast, was came from a relatively upper-middle class background: indeed, she was distantly related to the Kitsons, Barons of Airedale; in her family had been prominent liberals and unitarians; a Mayor of Helmsley and Officer of the Most Excellent order of the British Empire; a knighted civil servant and prominent figure in the British Empire League; and an assortment of figures who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had been involved in political campaigning to various degrees, primarily as proponents of “Imperial Federation” and home rule. Her great grandfather had been the Chief Constable of Hertfordshire Constabulary. Irrespective of past glories, Elizabeth’s own branch of the family, though clinging to middle class pretensions, was neither especially wealthy nor prominent. In any case, her death in labour left the infant James Manning bereft of a mother and her influence. Derrick Manning’s subsequent descent into self-flagellatory depression, substance abuse, petty crime and illness left him in no fit state to pick up the slack. Thus it was into the care of a maternal great-uncle, the police constable George Knight, that the young James was entrusted. Growing up in Bath in a modest but painstakingly well-kept home, Manning’s youth was defined by his great uncle’s obsession with discipline, propriety and status. George was given to enforcing a rigid regime of early morning rises, cold showers, conservative meals and rigorous exercise. Knight had, prior to his career in the police service, been an officer of the Royal Air Force: innately protective of his self-perceived status as a member of the “gentleman’s class,” and enthusiastic for his great nephew to earn the same such standing, he required standards of discipline and maturity that led Manning to develop beyond his years. By his tenth birthday, the young Manning could recite classical poetry fluently in English and Latin; had a reasonable grasp of French; was a keen rugby player and cricketer; an excellent shooter; a devoted member of the local Church of England congregation and choir; and earned pocket money by polishing the shoes and pressing the uniforms of Knight’s fellow officers. It was when Manning was eleven that the family, such as it was, moved to Sutton in south London, where he attended Wilson’s School - a successful grammar school for boys. Manning struggled at first, facing intense bullying. He was studious but unpopular, being passed over for the captainship of the cricket team “despite being by far the best player” and only being allowed to play as a winger on the rugby pitch by virtue of his great uncle’s intervention. The expense of living in the capital had reduced the family’s condition to living in a single unheated room, as Knight - by now retired - drew on his pension. What his great uncle surely saw as a matter of profound shame was the primary reason for Manning’s victimisation by his predominantly well-off peers, though he fought hard to fit in: he had eschewed his native west country accent, adopting perfect received pronunciation, was strong academically, well groomed and dressed, and sufficiently well fed at least to have entered the heavyweight league in the district boxing championships. Manning passed his O Levels with flying colours, making clear his intention to attend his school’s sixth form college and set forth on the path to university. In the summer immediately following his graduation from compulsory secondary education, however, Manning was struck by tragedy: his great uncle died of cancer, having kept his diagnosis a secret. Manning was at once devastated and liberated. He was taken in to live with a family friend. He completed his sixth form studies with excellent grades against all expectations, amidst a maelstrom of late nights, heavy drinking, partying and sexual promiscuity. By the age of 18 Manning was widely held to be responsible for the pregnancies of two older women. A seminal influence in Manning’s life - his English literature teacher, the Scotsman Donald McKidd, encouraged his star pupil to seek pupillage at Oxbridge. To McKidd’s surprise and dismay, Manning did not do so. He took up a job as a butcher’s apprentice, and seated above the shop he purchased a small flat: within six months could single-handedly strip an animal carcass to the bone. Wanting to see more of the world, and believing hat his chances of doing so would be best enhanced by his enlisting in the armed forces, Manning signed up to join the British Army in 1987 and was sent to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst where he trained as an officer. He served for thirteen years in the Royal Artillery, leaving the Army with the rank of Major. He remains a reservist. Manning has spoken of his great love and affection for the armed forces, calling his time in the Army “the first time in [his] life that [he] truly fitted in.” During his service, Manning met the French-Australian model and fashion stylist Chloé Loubet. The couple married within three months of meeting. The couple would have four children, two daughters and two sons, in addition to Manning’s three children by previous relationships. The couple would divorce in 2005. After leaving the army in 2000, Manning did finally attend the University of Cambridge - reading classics at King’s College - and then went on to study a second degree in politics, philosophy and economics at the London School of Economics. Teaming up with his friend Ben Merchant, a New Zealander and serial technology investor, Manning developed UPark, an online marketplace which allows the owners of private land and property to rent out space for parking by motorists and cyclists, in 2005. The service was piloted in Cambridge and was a success, and launched worldwide in January 2006. Manning described the service as “a quiet revolution in how we think of space in cities and large towns,” and even touted the app as a technologically-driven alternative to “pay and display” systems in traditional dedicated car parks. However, Manning’s growing political ambitions led him to sell his shares in the fledgling company to Merchant for £11 million in 2010. The sale was probably a mistake: by 2017, the company was one of Britain’s largest-growing private technology companies with 6 million worldwide users and a valuation of £60 million. Ahead of the 2010 general election, Manning fought a fiercely contested campaign for the Conservative Party’s nomination to stand in the constituency of Winchester: he had earlier stood in Bath in 2005. Manning spoke and wrote at length about his vision for the future of the Conservative Party, expressing a view that “the very word ‘conservative’… no longer adequately represents us, and is indeed anathema to much of the country.” Manning proposed that the party rebrand to emphasise the “Unionist” part of its formal title. He spoke extensively of the need for the party to campaign and govern from the centre ground, calling for a synthesis of traditional conservative ideas with progressive policies. After a hard-fought campaign, Manning was selected narrowly to contest the seat ahead of a traditionalist opponent. At the 2010 general election Manning was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Winchester. Following the Conservatives’ entry into government he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence in 2011. In 2013 Manning became an assistant government whip. He was then rapidly promoted in the wider Cabinet reshuffle of 2014 to succeed Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Education. Manning was criticised for appointing Tony Sewell, later Tony Sewell CBE, as his special adviser: in 2006, Sewell had said that boys were being failed by schools because lessons had become too "feminised". In 2014 Manning appeared on the BBC television programme “Who Do You Think You Are,” which uncovered his maternal links to the Barons of Airedale and his family’s role in the unitarian community, the British Empire League, and liberal politics of the 19th century. The programme was also able to uncover evidence about his paternal lineage, revealing to Manning for the first time that his father, in his fifties by the time of James’ birth, had served on submarines during the second world war and been awarded the Victoria Cross. Manning followed the appearance with a seminal yet controversial speech delivered to the Conservative Friends of India group, discussing British history and the British Empire. Manning said he was “hugely proud to be British,” but said that he acknowledged “great atrocities committed by Britain against communities in India and other colonised parts of the world.” However, he also claimed that “the British Empire was not uniquely evil, nor was it uniquely malevolent or neglectful towards its colonies […] whilst we all today, with the benefit of modern understanding, reject and resent colonialism, it is prudent to acknowledge that in many cases life under British rule was better than life under the rule of other colonial empires pursuing similar practices… and Britain’s decolonisation process was pretty peaceful and willing compared to many.” He said that “all developed nations have dark smears across the pages of their history; but Britons of all colours and creeds should balance critique and sorrow for those stains with drawing pride from the positive achievements of Britain, and indeed the British Empire. History is nuanced: it is the same sovereign state which at one stage played the biggest role in the transatlantic slave trade which later did more than any other country on Earth to put a stop to it. Students of history need to be able to assess these things dispassionately, as far as possible, and with an eye for historical context.” It was noted in the media after the speech that Manning is a personal friend of Dr. Zareer Masani, a historian of Indian origin who writes with a largely positive view about the British Raj. In the same speech, Manning addressed immigration into the UK, saying: “I am unashamedly pro-immigration, which has been seminal in the foundation of a British identity for thousands of years: immigration does not diminish, but rather enhances, our cultural heritage.” Elaborating, Manning claimed that: “since the Romans invaded from modern-day Italy; the Anglo-Saxon tribes from modern-day Germany; the Norman French, upon whose foundations the modern British state is laid […] that quintessentially British meal, fish and chips, originates in the kitchens of eastern European Jews living in London. Many of our biggest cities, especially in the north, are full of Irish heritage. The Royal Family, until it changed its family name in 1917, was openly Germanic. The arrival of Caribbean settlers in the 1960s heralded the birth of the Notting Hill Carnival. Indians in the 1970s brought curry, now a beloved national dish, to this country. Modern-day Eastern Europeans make up a disproportionate number of our doctors and nurses. Britain is, truthfully, a nation of immigrants.” Manning joked: “the British Isles are home to the highest concentration of ginger people anywhere in the world - that’s a Celtic trait, so I was here long before most of you.” He concluded somewhat wryly: “the British nation, of which I am by the way profoundly proud, could not reasonably expect to rule over a quarter of the world’s people and raise them under the British flag, and then later tell them that they are not welcome in the mother country.” Following concerns from business leaders that children were leaving school without good teamwork skills, Manning stated that character development was as important as academic achievement. In December 2014, he announced £3.5 million of funding to promote the building of "grit" and "resilience" amongst students. Some schemes were said to be likely to involve ex-servicemen teaching pupils – particularly those with behaviour problems – the importance of discipline, in a model very familiar to Manning himself. Privately, Manning was said to be a proponent of expanding school choice, particularly with the advent of new grammar schools, though the suggestion was not adopted as government policy. Ahead of the 2015 general election, and speaking at a meeting of the “Bright Blue” Conservative think tank, Manning said Conservatives would have to send out an optimistic message and not just "the language of hate" if they were to win the next general election. His comments were thought to show concern at right-wing backbenchers' criticisms of Cameron on immigration and welfare. Manning announced in the same speech that he planned for all schools to become academies by 2022. Reports surfaced in the press that he had lobbied for a dramatic increase in per-pupil funding for schools ahead of the 2016 budget, and threatened to resign if it was not delivered: government sources denied the rumour. In 2016, Manning supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, and was a prominent political backer of the “BeLeave” campaign targeted at young voters and run by the future commentator Darren Grimes. There was some speculation that a rift had formed between Manning and the Prime Minister over education policy, with Manning demanding more funding and a more radical approach to school choice, and it was widely expected that Manning would be dropped from the Cabinet in a future reshuffle: some suggested that his decision to back Brexit was a rebuke to the Remain-supporting government. Following the referendum, Manning initially advocated a “Norway model” of Brexit, becoming associated with Lord Owens’ “Norway for Now” proposals. He had, during the referendum campaign, spoken in favour of the UK joining the European Free Trade Association, but later admitted that “continued membership of the single market in that form [did] not seem to be compatible with people’s wishes.” Manning was moved out of the Department for Education and lost his Cabinet seat when he was appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office in 2016 by incoming Prime Minister Theresa May, with a new remit to pursue IT reform across the civil service. One of his innovations included introducing the single cross-Whitehall estate access pass. He was also responsible for launching the cross-government ROSA IT system for collaboration on SECRET material. He joked that a large part of his work involved “wrenching ministers and officials away from their five-year-old Blackberries,” and though he was not successful in unifying IT procurement and protocol across the entire government, he did express pride in successfully converting the Cabinet Office and 10 Downing Street to what he called “a more modern set-up.” Manning was an enthusiastic proponent of centralising government procurement and outsourcing, claiming that up to £25 billion could be saved “if administrators put their heads together.” Manning regarded the 2017 general election campaign as “a disaster” and was said after the event to have been warning privately for weeks that the Conservatives would not secure a majority. He reiterated his call for the Conservatives to “change or die” following the election. Speaking to the Tory Reform Group, he said that the party needed to find “a middle way between the socialist view of the Labour Party and the Thatcherite consensus of the last forty years, which was instrumental in Britain’s success in the 1980s […] but is a half-century old programme which does not address the challenges and opportunities we face in the here and now.” Manning claimed to be working on the production of a policy document entitled “the New Unionist Manifesto” which would elucidate his vision for an economic and social agenda which he described as loosely modelled on German “Rhine Capitalism,” but later admitted that the project had “taken a back seat to ongoing political realities.” [b]Personal Life[/b] Manning divorced his first wife in 2005, and married his second, Abigail, in 2012. He has seven children; four by his first wife, and three by previous partners born during his early adulthood. He lives in the medieval market town of Bishop’s Waltham when not working in London and owns a “small flat” in Pimlico. Manning speaks French, German and Russian as well as English, and is fluent in classical Latin and Greek. He is currently studying Mandarin. He enjoys playing and watching cricket, rugby union and tennis; he is also an avid fan of Formula One motor racing. He enjoys painting with oils, mostly landscapes, though he claims he “isn’t very good.” Manning is passionate about aviation and in 2003 wrote to the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, urging him to step in to prevent the retirement of Concorde and/or procure an airframe for government use. He is a self-made millionaire, with most of his wealth gained through the £11 million sale of his share of UPark in 2010. Manning said that he “doesn’t really spend money on anything except clothes,” pointing out that whilst he purchases tailored suits, he drives a 1990s Rover 800 which has been in his possession for twenty years, lives in a “modest and rather dilapidated house,” and “uses the same Smith’s watch from the 1960s that my great-uncle wore as a police constable.” Manning is a practising member of the Church of England, though he describes himself as Anglo-Catholic. He admitted publicly in 2013 to having “dabbled” in same-sex relationships in his youth, revealing the anecdote while confirming his support for same-sex marriage. Manning said that there were “unique challenges” associated with being LGBT in the military, and particularly in the army: he said there were “some ideals for soldiers in terms of masculinity - which are in one way very necessary to the meat and gravy of what we have to do - that can also harmful.” Manning revealed in 2017 that he takes prescription antidepressants and has undergone therapy to come to terms with “certain periods of darkness in [his] life.” He was featured in GQ magazine in the run-up to the 2015 election, his slim-fitting Gieves & Hawkes tailored suits with distinctive low gorges, wide bellied lapels, ticket pockets, roped sleeve-heads and pleated and cuffed trousers drawing particular praise. Manning joked that he had “sort of created [his] own house style” and said “one thing I’d like to do, when there’s more money to spend, is create some sort of fund for kids reaching adulthood - boys and girls - to get themselves suited and booted […] you know, some smart clothes for interviews and to really give them some self-confidence.” Manning joked that he had wanted to grow a moustache during late 2014, but had had the idea “vetoed by Number 10.” [B]Political Character (notes for admins)[/b] Manning has been described as “so wet he’s drowning” and accused of “scarcely disguising the fact that he’s a Lib Dem” by opponents within the Conservative Party. He is seen as a bit of a maverick, with speculation rampant that he had a major falling out with David Cameron ahead of the EU referendum and that this was a factor in his choosing to support Brexit. Another criticism of Manning is that he is a self-publicist: eagerly doing the media rounds as often as possible. However, his tenures at the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office were generally seen as positive and successful. He is recognised as a good communicator, but known for being a strong “big picture vision” thinker and weaker on detail. He is quite popular with Young Conservatives, among whom he has a reasonable following, but very unpopular with right-wing Conservative MPs. His relationships with civil servants have generally been good. Manning associates mainly with the Cameroon and Maybot factions of the Conservative Party, and has good relationships with Parliamentarians from other parties too. [i]Private Eye[/i] is prone to making sardonic references to the fact that he is not involved in the lives of his first two children, yet has publicly said that children “need two loving parents.” For some unknown reason Manning demands positively frigid temperatures in his offices, once drawing the ire of DfE civil servants by asking for the central heating to be set “absolutely no higher than 19 degrees.” He responded: “I’m a Tory, so probably cold-blooded.”
  2. Winchester - please change my username to James Manning!
  3. James David Winston Banning is a British-Vincentian Conservative Party politician and the Member of Parliament for Cheltenham. Born to a Vincentian father and a British mother in Kingstown on 27 October 1969 - the very same day that the British government relinquished control over Saint Vincent’s internal affairs - Banning was named after James Herman Banning, the first black aviator to fly coast-to-coast across the United States. His middle names were taken from two of Britain’s wartime leaders; David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. In 1973 Banning’s family relocated to Sutton in London, where Banning went on to attend Wilson’s School - a popular and successful grammar school in the local area. Banning’s parents were by no means wealthy themselves, but his education was supported through private tuition paid for by a maternal uncle - one of his only maternal relatives who had not shunned his white British mother’s marriage to a black man from the Caribbean - and he went on to read History & Politics at the University of Durham. Following his graduation, Banning took up a post as an office junior at the headquarters of Marconi Electronic Systems. For the next seven years Banning slowly climbed the ranks at Marconi, ending his career with the company as a project manager. Pursuing a second degree in computer science at the University of Bath, and standing unsuccessfully on behalf of the Conservative Party in the 2001 general election for the constituency of Bath following a “shock” selection, Banning started his own cyber-security firm - CleanSweep Ltd. - with friend, programmer and cryptologist Destiny Babangida. Styling themselves as the “big bad black boys of cryptography,” Banning and Babangida worked together for the next seven years, eventually basing their offices in Cheltenham close to the headquarters of GCHQ, with whom they did some contracting work. The pair were featured on the front page of an edition of WIRED magazine in 2008. In 2010 Banning sold his shares in the company and again stood for Parliament on behalf of the Conservative Party, this time in Cheltenham - again unsuccessfully. In the same year he founded iStays, an online marketplace for lodging. He sold the business for £5 million a year later, which he says is the “biggest regret of [his] life” - in 2012 under new leadership the company raised £100 million in funding, and by 2015 was estimated to be worth billions. iStays primarily competes with other similar services such as AirBnB and Vrbo. In 2015 Banning stood once again on behalf of the Conservative Party in Cheltenham. This time he won the seat, and entered the House of Commons for the first time. In 2016 he became a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. In 2018 he moved to take up a similar role at International Trade. When Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in 2019, Banning briefly occupied a junior position at the Cabinet Office before moving to the Department for Health & Social Care during the pandemic, where he was responsible for the development of the NHS Covid-19 app and contact tracing system. He served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury under William Croft, working closely with then Chancellor Michael Marshall. In late 2022, Banning was widely understood to be a key supporter of the Marshall campaign for the premiership. Banning is married with three children. He is a practising member of the Church of England. Since 2002 he has been an officer in the Army Reserves (formerly the Territorial Army) currently holding the substantive rank of Major. His wife, Gwendolyn Barr, is a Welsh-born former model who now works as an events coordinator for the London fashion house Alexander McQueen. His eldest son, Dagleish, was President of the Oxford Union whilst studying at the University of Oxford during the academic year 2021-22.
  4. Mr Speaker, With your permission, I would like to make a statement to the House in my capacity as Chairman of the Monkeypox Response Taskforce. Mr Speaker, the ongoing Monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern. The virus spreads most commonly through direct skin-to-skin contact; it is not a sexually transmitted infection, but the evidence is clear that the individuals currently most susceptible to infection are young and middle-aged men who have sex with men, who have sexual contact with new or multiple partners. However the disease can affect anyone; is by no means limited to men who have sex with men; and the government is very clear that the LGBT community should not face stigmatisation as a result of the outbreak. In infections prior to the current outbreak, the rate of death was between 1 and 3 percent. In the majority of people, symptoms are mild and do not require hospital treatment: particularly vulnerable are children and the immunocompromised. Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of Monkeypox: a fever a week or two after exposure, a rash, and lesions that last for up to four weeks before crusting and falling away. Some people will exhibit large numbers of lesions; others may experience only a single lesion, perhaps in the mouth or on the genitals. The government’s advice is that anyone who believes they may have been exposed to Monkeypox, or who believes they may have Monkeypox, should contact their GP and get tested, refrain from sex and intimate contact, and should not share bedding, towels or clothing with other people. In addressing the outbreak, the government has to make difficult choices. I can confirm today that the government has made available £25 million in funding to procure 1,400,000 vaccines by the end of next year. Current stocks stand at around 20,000, with another 80,000 to be delivered in January. We of course would like to have more doses available much more quickly, but we are constrained by practical limitations on the vaccine’s manufacturing. We have made the decision to exclusively order the JYNNEOS vaccine manufactured by Bavarian Nordic; the main alternative, ACAM2000, is not safe for people with certain medical conditions such as HIV and is associated with severe side effects. JYNNEOS is a two-dose vaccine; two jabs are needed to ensure immunity. The government, considering the availability of doses and the risk of increasing transmission, has to make difficult decisions about to whom it offers vaccinations. Until January, we can fully vaccinate only 10,000 people; thereafter we can vaccinate an additional 40,000, and in a year’s time 700,000. There are no easy options. On the one hand, we can prioritise the most clinically vulnerable. But that may not limit general transmission, which could mean that the number of cases increases exponentially and risks overwhelming the NHS. On the other hand, we can prioritise the groups most at-risk of contracting and spreading the virus: men who have sex with multiple male partners, or attend ‘sex on premises’ venues. This may cut off the transmission cycle and limit overall case numbers; but it is unclear how willing people will be to come forwards, how the risk level of different individuals can be objectively assessed, and how many individuals this criteria might apply to. After taking extensive medical and scientific advice, much of which is in the realms of hypotheses, and with many experts expressing different view, the government is choosing to take a blended approach. A first and second dose of the JYNNEOS vaccine will be offered to anyone who is clinically vulnerable, and anyone in a healthcare setting who is caring or will be caring for someone infected with Monkeypox. A first dose only at this time will be offered to men who have sex with multiple male partners, and people who have already had close contact with someone who is confirmed to be infected with Monkeypox. Second doses for these groups will be offered from January, and within 12 months we will have the capacity to offer both jabs to 700,000 people. Our approach has two strands: one, to protect the most vulnerable and prevent the spread of the virus in healthcare settings. Two, to attempt to cut off transmission by immunising the people most at-risk of catching or spreading the virus. The government’s general advice to all citizens remains the same: be aware of the symptoms of Monkeypox and do not engage in close contact with somebody who may have the virus; if you yourself may have the virus, contact your doctor to get tested and avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Do not share bedding, towels or clothes. I am acutely conscious of the fact that LGBT people in this country are already a vulnerable group, and deeply concerned with ensuring that whilst we acknowledge the medical and scientific advice, we are not stigmatising or castigating men who have sex with men, or indeed men who have sex with multiple male partners. It is important to get the balance right between protecting public health and securing civil liberties. So the government is not issuing official advice to refrain from or limit sex and intimate contact generally, nor are we taking measures to restrict the operations of premises catering for sexual encounters, and I want to be abundantly clear that the vaccine will be available on a walk-in basis at local GP surgeries so that patients will not need to discuss their sexual orientation or behaviours with medical staff. Aside from the clinically vulnerable, we are trusting individuals to self-select for vaccination. And I am working at the moment to ensure that young males who may be under the age of 18 are able to get the vaccine if they are eligible without needing the consent of a parent or guardian. I must emphasise that we all have a role to play in stopping the spread, through promoting awareness if nothing else. I would be grateful if all honourable and right honourable members could do their bit in the coming days to share information from the NHS, the government and the UK Health Security Agency regarding Monkeypox across a range of channels. Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.
  5. Her Majesty, in pursuance of section 1, subsection 1 of the Import, Export & Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939, is pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, as follows: (1) The importation into, or exportation from, the United Kingdom, or the carriage coastwise or the shipment as ships’ stores, of goods manufactured or sold by: A) The Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. B) The Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology Co., Ltd. is henceforth prohibited.
  6. Mr Speaker, With your permission I would make a brief statement to the House regarding ongoing events in the English Channel. Nearly 5,000 illegal migrants have crossed the English Channel from France in order to claim asylum in the United Kingdom this year. In doing so they risk their own lives and the lives of others, put funding into the hands of people smugglers who are often organised criminals involved in other nefarious dealings, undermine the integrity of the UK border and attempt to enter the United Kingdom illegally. The Government’s position is abundantly clear: migrants travelling from France are not fleeing persecution or indeed any tangible threat. They are already residing in a safe country. Thus at the moment of their departing across the Channel, they become in effect economic migrants: and their attempts to enter the UK illegally should be resisted. This morning, the Home Office received intelligence that as many as forty small boats were preparing to cross the channel in the most significant crossing yet this year. After meeting with Cabinet colleagues and securing the cooperation of the Ministry of Defence, the government ordered the Commander UK Strike Force to implement new tactics as part of Operation Isotrope. From today, orders have been given that boats attempting to cross the Channel illegally can be intercepted and pushed back by the Royal Navy. Today, loudhailers and water hoses - as well as physical blocking techniques - were used to prevent the crossing of a total of 27 small vessels. All 27, each carrying 20 or 30 migrants, were turned around in international waters and escorted back to the boundary with French waters. This action is nothing more or less than what the British public expects. For too long the security of our borders has been under threat by persistent small boat crossings. And there is a humanitarian consideration here too: for as long as the migrants and the people smugglers know they have a chance of success, they will continue to attempt a crossing which leads too many to their deaths. By taking a firm approach and ensuring the failure of crossing attempts, we can disincentivise further such attempts and spread the word throughout Calais that the treacherous voyage across the Channel is no longer a viable route to claiming asylum in the UK. I am confident that our actions today are fully compliant with Protocol 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights; there was no expulsion of migrants, as the boats were turned before they reached British seas. And I am also confident that we are compliant with the principle of non-refoulement, given that Britain and the international community regard France as a safe country where individuals are not in danger of facing persecution. Mr Speaker, the British people have cried out time and time again for strong borders and for the government to put an end to the Channel crossings crisis. This government is delivering on those priorities. The Royal Navy will continue to conduct pushback operations, and I anticipate the same high level of success in the future that we have seen today. The government is delivering the right way forward: and Britain is feeling the benefit. I commend this statement to the House.
  7. Policy Exchange Event “Ladies and gentlemen, The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the role of public services in Britain today. Our national story has become woven into the fabric of institutions such as the NHS and the education system, the BBC and the Church of England. It is unpopular, nay even blasphemous, to propose substantial reform in any of these areas. They are sacred cows, and the closest thing the British people have - apart, perhaps, from the Church - to a religion. But reform we must, and reform as Conservatives should really be our clarion call. A strong economy, thriving public services, homes to live in and more of your money in your pocket. These are the foundation stones of the fight for the next general election. In education, the most significant reform possible is to establish a National Education Service within which sits every school in the country, as an academy receiving its funding directly from the Service. Academy trusts should be given the power to merge, demerge and take one another over where necessary. Parents should be given the absolute right to choose any school they deem appropriate within the state sector for their child - with the proviso that they provide transportation if it is out or catchment, of course! - so that the popular, successful, outstanding schools are enabled to thrive and so that those which are failing can be easily taken over and revitalised by their outstanding counterparts. In effect, a free market in schooling: state-owned, state-funded and always free at the point of use. But a market in which parents choose the schools and the schools level each other up. I would also propose a greater diversification of the schools portfolio. We should have schools which focus on academic subjects; we should have schools which specialise in supporting those who might otherwise be left behind; we should have schools which train their pupils in woodwork and carpentry and schools which teach their students how to parent, make a home, care for others, sew. I am not proposing a return to the old ways of grammars and secondary moderns, where one’s life chances were determined at eleven: rather, I am proposing that within the model of a free market in schooling, academies should be encouraged to diversify, develop unique offers to students, and offer unique results. One school might focus on competitive sport, another on the arts. And I would expand the pupil premium by £1,000 per student, but make an element of it available to parents to aid them in selecting the school they prefer and, if necessary, transporting their child to it. The NHS can be reformed along similar lines. Always, we hear the Labour Party carp and crow about privatisation in the NHS. The truth is that, overwhelmingly and since its inception, many NHS services are already privately provided. GP surgeries are all private institutions contracted by the NHS to serve patients free of charge. I would go one step further, and take clinical commissioning groups out of the state sector. They would still receive state funding per patient; but beyond a basket of essential care, they would be free to offer the services and treatments that they chose. They would not be geographically restricted and would be free to compete across borders. The private and charitable sectors could also provide CCG services, again funded by the state on a per-patient basis. And patients would get the choice - a free choice - of to which commissioning group they wished to subscribe. They could choose to match with a provider with a specialism in cancer care; or another which leads in alternative therapies. They could sign up for a provider who guarantees shorter waiting lists, or one which is rated most highly for clinical outcomes. In short, it would be a patient’s market: within the control of the end user, and, as always, free at the point of use. And as we reform the public sector, we must reform the private sector too. Cronyism and corporatism are the enemies of a functioning free market economy as much as they are the enemies of socialism. And so this Conservative government should step forward to abolish restrictive practices, tackle the problem of insider trading, boost worker representation on company boards and eliminate anti-competitive practice. None of this can be achieved overnight, but it can be achieved ofer the course of a Parliamentary term. And that is what we have before us. “Reform” is not a word which sits easily alongside the word “conservative.” But it should be. For as we fund our essential services and support our businesses in the wake of the pandemic and in the wake of Brexit, we should demand from them too not only that they do the job - but that they are world-leading and world-beating. That they show the world how the job is done. Thank you.”
  8. Blue Collar Conservatism Event Ladies and gentlemen, The Blue Collar Conservatism movement is fundamentally about making our party responsive to the needs of working class Britons in areas where we have not traditionally been successful. We saw in 2019, and to a lesser extent in 2017, a renewed success of the Conservative Party in such communities. But if we are to go further, and secure the trust of the hardworking many who find themselves increasingly frustrated with a liberal, metropolitan agenda focused on London and the south east, we must be ready to adapt our thinking and embrace policies which will connect with the downtrodden heartlands of working class Britain. Some of this comes from our traditional values. Lower taxes; I have spoken already at another event about the need, as I see it, to take minimum wage workers out of income tax altogether and to unify the income tax and national insurance thresholds. A strong defence; I have spoken about the need to reinvest in our armed forces and target a 2.5% of GDP defence spend by 2030. Law and order; the Conservatives in government are already hiring tens of thousands of new police officers, but we also need to work to ease the courts backlog, toughen sentencing and ensure that for the most serious offences, life means life. We also need to tackle low-level offending and antisocial behaviour, which is devastating to the people I meet on council estates and in corner shops every day. Part of the solution draws on the great Conservative tradition: a tough rebuke to young offenders. But part of it comes from beyond our own orthodoxy. We must consider how we can give young people responsibility; how we can help them to aspire and achieve; how we can promote model citizenship in a world which increasingly glamorises crime and criminality. We also need to raise living standards in some of our most deprived communities. And that comes, yes, with direct targeted support through the welfare system. It also comes from supporting people of all ages in finding work, finding secure work, and progressing at work. And frankly, it is unrealistic and undesirable to imagine that all young people will or should go to university. There is a commonality amongst people in the poorest communities in that they want to “get on with it” - go into work and start earning money. Often it is because they need to, to help support their families. And more often still it is because they want to: because the working classes of this country, whether it is politically correct to say so or not, have an intrinsic understanding of hard graft, a willingness to do it, and a desire to make money. Helping people to better themselves can be done in three key areas. First, infrastructure: every home in the UK should have access to fast broadband. Every street should be connected to a bus service. When we build flagship projects like HS2, we should focus on driving interconnectivity between more deprived towns and cities. Second, public services: every child should have the opportunity to attend a good or outstanding school. We can achieve that by reforming the education system to put student choice at its heart, and by eliminating the rigid expectation that every child will pursue an academic career. We need to make sure that healthcare provision is top-notch - and even as this government opens new hospitals and clinics, it must ensure that oversubscribed GP and pharmacy services are supported to handle the additional load in terms of patients that comes from local growth and also in the wake of the COVID pandemic. A broad embrace of telemedicine and the opportunities, particularly for the young, of mobile medicine can help todo that. And third, lifelong learning: education that is there for you whenever you need it, whatever you want to learn, and whatever hours you are working. That is why I propose the creation of a College of Britain, along the same lines as the Open University. The College of Britain would provide distance and at-home learning services, mostly in this day and age via the internet but also through local services such as libraries, and would accredit students with academic, technical and vocational qualifications below degree level. It would offer nursing access courses to the carer who dreams of becoming a nurse; it would offer English and Maths tuition for those who are lacking in those key skills; it would offer NVQs and HNDs and business courses for the young girl in Clwyd West I met last week, who wanted more than anything to set up her own online makeup store. I bought some of her lipstick, by the way, and Shaniqua - it’s excellent! And access to the College of Britain would be provided on the same basis as university admissions: free at the point of use, with a tuition loan repayable only if and when the student earns above a reasonable threshold. It would be of no greater cost to the public purse than the £500 million a year afforded to the Open University, and the economic benefits it would bring would far exceed that value. Of course, improved education on its own is not enough. We must cut the taxes of these hardworking communities; improve their services; build the housing that their young desperately need; connect their towns and cities with good public transport; tackle crime and ensure that serious criminals are put away for good. We should also decriminalise marijuana, and stop locking young men and women away for “bunning a zoot.” *there is a degree of confusion and shaking of heads in the audience* But more on that another time. Thank you for having me.”
  9. The Henry Jackson Society Event “It is an absolute pleasure to speak today at the invitation of the Henry Jackson Society on a matter close to my heart: the meaning and future of Global Britain. In the aftermath of the allied withdrawal from Afghanistan, I would like to pay tribute to the myriad military and diplomatic staff of the United Kingdom and of the wider ISAF for their diligence and success in evacuating people from Kabul and elsewhere. I think I speak for everyone - and I have spoken to the Prime Minister too, who agrees with me - that anyone at risk of persecution by the Taliban, and in particular anyone who has assisted the British military force during its twenty-year presence in Afghanistan, should find a safe home in Britain. The withdrawal itself, of course, leaves many questions raised. How do we rate the success of the operation in Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power? Clearly, it has not been wholly successful. But wider and more fundamentally, questions are left unanswered about the role of Britain in the future in the international arena. Over the last eleven years, the defence budget has been cut - there’s no getting around that. For a long time, it was earnestly believed that the future of the British armed forces was in a smaller, more nimble, more highly-specialised force capable of fighting the battles that we assumed would be those of the coming decades: smaller, more sporadic, more assymetrical. And yet I am forced to wonder whether we have learned the wrong lessons. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an overwhelming success, insofar as allied forces removed Saddam Hussein from power and established the basis for a democratic, liberal government in Baghdad. But the subsequent occupation broadly failed in its objectives. In the early days post invasion, there was looting and civil disorder. There were riots. Weapons caches were looted. And the failure of allied forces to control the situation marked the beginning of a descent, gradual at first, and then at once more rapid, into civil war and sectarianism. The problem was not that our forces were not sufficiently mobile or specialised; it was that there were not enough of them, and they had too few resources. Indeed it was only after the American troop surge in 2007 that the security situation in Iraq began again to stabilise. We all heard the stories of inadequate armour, broken-down vehicles, and insufficient helicopter backup. And it is easy to dismiss the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as the conflicts of the past; to assume that we will never again fight a war on that scale or in that way. But we thought this once before: when the British government presented Options for Change at the close of the Cold War, and dramatically downsized our armed forces. Indeed, only nine years ago, President Obama mocked his Republican opponent in the presidential election for naming Russia as the biggest extant threat to the United States. Who is laughing now? Our defence reviews and assumptions should not be focused solely on anticipating a future whose bounds we cannot know for sure; rather, our focus should be on maintaining existing capabilities and ensuring that our overall ability to conduct operations of any kind, not just those we deem most likely, is not diminished. The power of a large and strong conventional force cannot be underestimated, particularly as we seem once again duty bound to fight the war of words between open and closed societies, between democracies and autocracies: between Britain and her allies, and Russia, China, Iran. I would propose that the government seriously contemplates raising defence spending beyond 2% of GDP to 2.5% by 2030 and 3% by 2040. And I would further challenge the government to ensure that Britain’s armed forces are the best-trained, paid, equipped and cared for in the world. There is an old joke, not very diplomatic, and meant in jest, about the American servicemen who arrived in Britain from 1942 onwards: that they had all the gear and no idea. Our servicemen and women deserve to have all the gear and a landscape-dominating repertoire of training and experience behind them, and that costs money. Frankly, it is money we cannot afford not to spend. Because whilst today another Iraq or Afghanistan looks unlikely, it would not take much for looming threats in Iran, Pakistan or Syria to pose a serious danger. China has her eyes firmly on Taiwan. And Russia is salivating over the Baltics and Ukraine. Beyond the military sphere, it is clear that Britain remains one of the premier exporters of soft power in the world. We can enhance our ability to exert cultural, diplomatic and economic power by continuing to promote free and fair trade, by expanding the bounds of the BBC World Service and institutions such as the British Council, by maintaining our commitment to Overseas Development Aid and by stepping in with humanitarian solutions when the world is in crisis: in Hong Kong, for instance, I see nothing short of a legion of former and future Britons ready to rejoin a free society and make the United Kingdom their home. The World Service should redouble its efforts on providing honest information and education in those areas of the world where restricted information is the norm; and Britain should take the lead in legislating for human, civil and political rights around the world. With our allies in Europe and the Five Eyes community, and the Commonwealth realms, we should consider developing a ‘Belt and Brace’ international investment fund to wrest away Chinese dominance of FDI in Africa and the far east. And we should seek vigorously to support the arts, and Britain’s cultural contribution to the world. These measures will not make the United Kingdom a reborn hegemon or create in the world a new Pax Britannica. But they will ensure that we continue to bear the responsibility of free and prosperous nations to the oppressed and poor - and reap the rewards. Thank you.”
  10. The Spectator Event “Ladies and gentlemen, What a pleasure it is to be able to speak today and to have met so many people courtesy of The Spectator. What always inspires me when I come to Conservative Party Conference is the number of enthusiastic young people, many of whom are coming to conference for the first time, who surely cast away any doubt that this party can find and has found a constituency in the young. The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed challenges on a scale foreign to this generation of Britons. Perhaps in the most meaningful way since the Second World War, the state was forced to intervene in the economy in a manner so overwhelming and far-reaching that it changed the fabric of the British political debate. We lost, for a time, some of our most treasured liberties as we made sacrifices to keep people safe. But we also saw light in the darkness: the communities which came together, starting Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups and arranging to deliver essential supplies to those in need. The businesses which adapted to circumstance, embracing flexible working and allowing their workforces to work more readily from home. The teachers and doctors who innovated, seeing those in their charge virtually and striving still to provide the best possible care. The legacy of COVID lives with us all. But as we move past the pandemic, and indeed past Brexit, we must accept that for many people a return to the status quo is simply not good enough. Just as, after the second world war was one, the British people demanded that the country change and win the peace; the people today demand that things change and that we win the future. It is not enough to build back; rather, we must, as the Prime Minister has said, Build Back Better. And there are a couple of essential ways in which we can do this. First, as a party of low taxes and small government, the Conservatives must work to recapture the imagination of the British people and promote what these values mean in practice. Consider a single mother working in social care, putting in 40 hours a week on the minimum wage. Before tax she will earn £1,520 a month. But she will lose almost £100 of that money each month to tax. And so she will work one of her twelve hour shifts, in which she earns only £9.50 in an hour, for the taxman rather than for herself. It is clear to me that the basic personal allowance should be set at the level of the full-time minimum wage: so that nobody earning less than this pays a penny in income tax. And more than that, the rates of income tax and national insurance contributions should be harmonised: so that again, those who are taking home less than the bare minimum are not forced to contribute to the Treasury’s coffers. Of course, such changes would need to be gradual and careful. Means of replacing lost revenue would need to be found. But if our tax system is to be one which is fair and one which rewards hard work, it is simply unacceptable that those earning what the government deems the minimum acceptable income are working for free at the behest of HMRC. Another badly-needed measure to revolutionise our country is the liberalisation of the planning system and a wholesale commitment to housebuilding. I subscribe to the housing theory of everything: that is that the ability to own or rent a home where you want to affects almost everything else not only in your own life, but in the strength of the wider economy. It determines the employment opportunities you can seek, the services you have access to, the schools your children will attend. And right now, especially for the young, getting on the housing ladder is harder than at any time before in our history. There is a chronic housing shortage in Britain, and if the Conservatives are to maintain a winning coalition of voters amongst the British electorate, we must address it. One of the problems is the planning regime itself. I am delighted to know that the Prime Minister is proposing in this session a Planning Bill which will make it easier to build the homes that people need. But another issue is the designation of vast swathes of economically valuable land, close to centres of job creation, as part of the infamous greenbelt - which has doubled in size since the 1970s, much of which is already built on, and very little of which constitutes an area of natural beauty or ecological significance. The solution in my mind is to institute the creation of new garden cities, each housing 100,000 residents, on the peripheries of the large existing cities and to enable rapid mass transit between them. High quality, beautiful homes surrounded by green space, and designed to be walkable, cyclable and accessible for public transport. Such new developments, in economic and innovation hotspots such as the Oxford-Cambridge arc, would create up to a million new homes in areas of very high demand and extend the boundaries of our property-owning democracy to those who have until now been excluded from that franchise. Politically, there will always be local difficulties with the construction of new dwellings. Noone wants a new town in their back yard. But the national considerations are far bigger. The Conservative Party cannot afford to be a party of NIMBYism; for NIMBYism is the younger brother of Ludditism, and we here all understand the unstoppable nature of change. It is always better to be the architect of events than a passenger in their voyage. If this government grasps the nettle of local interests and applies a national strategy to revolutionise access to housing, we can tackle many of our other challenges: sluggish economic growth, the ticking demographic timebomb, the all-consuming creation of wealth in London at the expense of the rest of the UK. Colleagues, it is no panacea: but it is the closest damn thing. And it is a policy for which I will be advocating most strongly in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you.”
  11. Juliet Freya Elizabeth Manning is a Welsh Conservative Party politician and the Member of Parliament for Clwyd West since 2015. Born on 8th December 1965, Juliet’s parents were General Practitioners and partners at a doctor’s surgery in Denbighshire. Her father was English and her mother Welsh, with the couple settling in Wales in the years prior to Juliet’s birth. Juliet attended a Welsh-language primary school, ensuring her fluency in the tongue, and went on to attend a girls’ grammar school in Eirias. Manning attended Prifysgol Aberystwyth where she read Economics, and upon graduating took up a role with Banc Cymru. She was Director of Corporate Services by the time of the bank’s closure in 2002, and went on to take up a senior position with Royal Mail. Manning was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Royal Mail in 2010, in which capacity she advised the government regarding compliance with EU directive 2008/6/EC, which required fully open competition in the postal sector by 2012. The then Business Secretary, Vince Cable, planned to comply with the regulation by privatising the organisation; Manning was instrumental in securing agreement that 10% of shares would be held by Royal Mail staff, with the remaining 90% to be privatised. Manning remained in post until 6 February 2014, by which time the Royal Mail had been floated on the London Stock Exchange. Manning’s departure as Chief Executive came just hours after her finalisation of a pay settlement with the CWU, agreeing a 9.06% pay rise over three years in order to avoid strike action. Manning’s departure from the company allowed her to stand for election to Parliament in the 2015 general election; she was selected to contest the seat of Clwyd West on behalf of the Conservative Party, which she won easily. After a year on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, she was appointed by Theresa May in 2016 to be a PPS in the Wales Office, and in 2017 she moved to the Cabinet Office. Manning was dropped from the ministerial team upon the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in 2019. In 2021 she returned as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Primary Care and Patient Safety after receiving significant media attention for a series of well-received fringe speeches at the Conservative Party Conference, which propelled her to a position of national recognition. Speculation that she would be in line for a Cabinet post at the next reshuffle mounted. Following Sir William Croft’s appointment as Prime Minister in July 2022, Manning received a major promotion as she became Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Home Department. The appointment came as something of a surprise, with Manning having no prior Cabinet-level experience; but Number 10 highlighted her role in leading Royal Mail for four years as evidence of her ability to manage a large organisation such as the Home Office. Manning is married with no children; she suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 1989 and was informed that she would likely never be able to give birth. Manning has described the revelation as “heartbreaking,” saying that “for as long as [she had] lived, [she had] wanted to have children.” Her husband, Damien, worked for HSBC for over forty years and now chairs the British East Asia Investment Forum. The couple own Hensol Castle in Wales. Manning enjoys tennis and netball and lives an active life. She is a practising Roman Catholic.
  12. The Rt Hon. Alice van der Walt QC, MP is a British-South African Labour Party politician and the Member of Parliament for Ealing North. Born on 1 January 1943 in Pretoria in what was then the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, Alice’s father was Nicolaas van der Walt, who worked as a civil servant in the Governor-General’s office, and her mother, Elizabeth van der Walt, was a British expat who had moved to Pretoria shortly before the outbreak of the second world war. At end of the war in 1945, Elizabeth and Nicolaas were divorced amidst allegations of adultery on his part. Elizabeth and the young Alice returned to Britain by steam ship and settled in Acton, with Elizabeth purchasing a house on Horn Lane using a portion of her alimony. Alice attended the City of London School for Girls, funded by her father: she went on to attend the University of Cambridge where she read Law, and was subsequently called to the Bar at Temple Inn. Practising as a criminal barrister for thirty years, van der Walt defended clients in some of London’s most notable trials at the Central Criminal Court. She “took silk” in 1990. In 1994 van der Walt joined the Labour Party, and ahead of the 1997 general election was selected by the party to contest the seat of Ealing North. She won easily. In 2001 van der Walt was appointed a Minister of State in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. In 2004 she became Solicitor General, and in 2007 Minister for the City of London ahead of the demise of Gordon Brown’s Labour government. Van der Walt has never married and has no children.
  13. [b]Before politics[/b] Born on 8th December 1970, James Richard Manning was the first and only child of Derrick and Elizabeth Manning (née Knight.) Elizabeth Manning died in childbirth, and Derrick, already an alcoholic, succumbed quickly to intense depression and substance abuse. The young James was therefore brought up primarily by his maternal uncle, George Knight, a former officer in the Royal Air Force turned taxi driver and police special constable. Manning later described George as “an eccentric, an obsessive, and quite probably somewhere on the autistic spectrum.” Obsessively concerned with his status as a member of the “officer class” despite his relative poverty - and his condition of living in a modest two-up-two-down terrace in Bath - George was both a harsh disciplinarian and a proud man, who insisted that James attend a private Montessori nursery - paying for the privilege at the expense of basic home amenities - learn to play cricket and rugby from a young age, and study such topics as the classics, the history of art, Latin and philosophy - aiming to “make a gentleman of the boy.” Although his parents were from the Black Country, James was taught to speak in an affected English Received Pronunciation accent, intended to disguise the modesty of his background, and was expected to show a level of self-discipline and restraint far beyond his years. James was required to take cold showers each day, embark on a robust regime of exercise every morning before dawn, and perform regular errands for other families in the community. The boy was beaten regularly, and required to attend Church of England services several times each week. In 1981 the family, such as it was, moved to Sutton in Greater London, where James attended Wilson’s School - a high-performing local grammar school for boys. At the school, James captained the rugby team, played on the cricket team and petitioned his teachers to form a boxing club. He excelled in the study of literature and history, wrote sonnets in his spare time, and enlisted in a variety of national literary competitions for children. He was a member of the Army Cadets from the age of 13. James excelled in his O Levels, but during the summer holidays of 1986 George Knight died suddenly of a heart attack. His neighbour, Mary-Anne Jones, took James into her home and he spent the next two years living with the extended Jones family. The next few years of James’ life were defined by the “letting off of pent-up steam in an explosion of youthful mischief.” James took up smoking, drinking and a string of lovers. Despite his outward rebelliousness and proclivity towards all of which his uncle would have disapproved, James remained academically successful and performed well in his A Levels despite “putting in very little effort”. It therefore came as a shock to his contemporaries when he declined to attend university, instead continuing in his job at a local butcher’s shop. Moving into a small bedsit in Cheam, he continued to exhibit a tendency towards promiscuity, and by 1989 had three children by different mothers. In 1990 James took the decision to enlist in the British Army, being successfully selected for officer training. James enjoyed a fourteen-year career in the Army during which time he married his first wife, the French-Australian model Chloé Loubet, and welcomed the birth of his fourth daughter and first son. Manning played for the Army Rugby Union. In 2000 James left the military having attained the rank of Major, though he retained a commission as a reservist. He applied to study at Oxford University, where he read business administration and graduated with first-class honours in 2003. In the same year, Manning and his close friend Ben Merchant purchased a derelict supermarket building in Bedfordshire. Reopening the store under the branding of “Smiley’s,” the pair sold a range of foods and household goods and quickly turned a profit sufficient to open a second and then a third store in 2004. “Smiley’s” continued to grow rapidly with a unique franchise business model, and by 2007, when Manning sold his shares in the firm, it operated 12 stores in the East of England. Ahead of the 2007 general election, Manning was selected to contest the seat of Richmond Park which had been held by the Liberal Democrats since 1997, on behalf of the Conservative Party. He won the seat. [b]Political career[/b] Manning is pro-European, though he rejects British membership of the Euro. In 2007, he wrote an article in French for [i]Le Figaro[/i] expressing a desire to see the three Presidents of the European Union replaced with a single and directly-elected figurehead. He also opined that the balance of powers between the Commission, Parliament and Council should change, with the Parliament given legislative primacy and the Council in effect acting as the second house of a bicameral legislature. Manning was criticised in December 2007 for comments made about devolution; instinctively favouring a strong and unified state, he expressed fears that “the establishment of Scottish and Welsh assemblies and executives - leaving to one side the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland - seems to me to make the United Kingdom the inverse of Europe, where ever-closer union is surely replaced with a union ever-more distant and eventually set to break.” He said that he would have preferred that a comprehensive solution to the West Lothian Question had been implemented in the British Parliament rather than devolved administrations established in 1998, but later clarified that he “[had] no ambition to rescind or alter the existing devolution settlement, which is now a permanent fixture of our political system.” In the same year Manning called for cannabis to be decriminalised, citing the Portuguese example of decriminalisation as a model for the UK to emulate. [b]Personal life[/b] Manning has eight children. His first wife, Chloé Loubet, was a French-Australian model with whom he had two children; his second, Abigail-Lucy Heath, was a civil servant with whom he had three. In 2007, Manning and Heath finalised their divorce and Manning announced his engagement to Nyusya Romanova, a Russian-born entrepreneur who had been his tennis coach and partner for the preceding two years. Manning has three children by different mothers from his young adulthood. Manning owns a flat in the Putney area of London and a larger property in Whitby, Yorkshire. He is a collector of classic cars, with notable features of his collection including a Daimler DS420, an Aston Martin DB5, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and an Austin Mini. He does not drive while in London and commutes to Westminster via the London Underground from Putney Bridge station. Manning is a keen fan of cricket and rugby union, playing both recreationally and also enjoying competitive tennis. In 2004 and 2005 he ran the London Marathon to raise money for Cancer Research UK. He has a close personal friendship with fellow retail entrepreneur Ben Merchant, with whom he founded Smiley’s supermarkets in 2003. Merchant, who is a British-Australian dual national, donated significant sums to Manning’s 2007 election campaign in Richmond Park. Smiley’s is now 100% owned by the Merchant family after Manning sold his 50% stake in 2007.
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