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James Banning

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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.


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