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Stephen James Dorrell MP (born 25 March 1952) is a British politician. He is the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for the Charnwood constituencymarker in northern Leicestershiremarker and is a Patron of the Tory Reform Group.


Dorrell was born in Worcestermarker. He was educated at the independent Uppingham Schoolmarker and at Brasenose Collegemarker, part of the University of Oxfordmarker, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve for two years from 1971.

Apart from his years in governmental office, Dorrell is a company director of the Faithful Group Ltd, his family's industrial clothing firm. Dorrell is also a director and 15% shareholder in The Wensum Group Ltd, which was created after corporate clothing company the Wensum Company in which Dorrell was also a director, went through a pre-packaged administration in 2009.

Dorrell has been married to Penelope Anne Wears Taylor since 1980 and they have three sons and a daughter. He lives within his constituency, and is a former patron of Christian Aid.

Political career

During the February 1974 general election, Dorrell acted as a personal assistant to Conservative minister Peter Walker. He contested the safe Labour seat of Hull Eastmarker at the October 1974 general election but was soundly defeated by the sitting MP and later Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who was returned with a majority of 25,793 votes.

At the 1979 general election, the Conservatives were returned to office under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Dorrell was elected to the House of Commonsmarker for the marginal seat of Loughboroughmarker, ousting the veteran Labour MP John Cronin by 5,199 votes. He has remained an MP since.

On his election he was the Baby of the House of Commons, an informal title for the youngest member. He was succeeded as the Baby of the House on 9 April 1981 when Bobby Sands was elected at the April 1981 Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election, however Sands died on 5 May 1981 whilst on hunger strike in Long Kesh Prisonmarker. Dorrell again became the Baby of the House until 20 August 1981, when Sands's successor Owen Carron was elected at the August 1981 Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election.

Following his election to parliamentmarker in 1979 he was a member of the Transportmarker Select Committee. After the 1983 general election he was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to his old boss Peter Walker, who had now become the Secretary of State for Energy.

In government

Dorrell was promoted to government after the 1987 General Election by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as an Assistant Government Whip, and in 1988 became a Lord Commissioner to the Treasury 'full whip'. He was appointed as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health in 1990 under the premiership of John Major. After the 1992 General Election he became the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Dorrell was promoted to the Major Cabinet as the Secretary of State for National Heritage in 1994, and on appointment became a Member of the Privy Council. He headhunted Jennie Page for the job of Millennium Domemarker Chief Executive according to The Observer. Page was sacked shortly after the Dome's opening night fiasco. He was transferred to become the Secretary of State for Health in 1995, and remained in position until the end of the Conservative administration at the 1997 general election.

Dorrell was often deployed in the media as a spokesman for the Major government, as it was felt he conveyed an air of approachability and popular appeal. During party conference season in the late nineties he was followed by a camera crew from the BBC's Breakfast show, capturing the behind-the-scenes build-up to his conference speech. The actual speech was also shown, including his joke (at the height of tensions in the Conservative party over Europe) that he considered himself a 'bureausceptic'. Unfortunately the joke, a reference to trying to reduce the level of red tape in the Health Service fell on deaf ears. As a nineties Conservative Ministerial remark, it was on a par with that of Roger Freeman, another 'approachable Tory'.

After government

When constituency boundaries were revised for the 1997 election, he moved with his key rural voters into the new Charnwood Constituencymarker. He won the seat comfortably with a majority of 5,900, Loughborough itself being lost to Andy Reed of Labour.

He launched a bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1997 but withdrew before the first ballot when it became clear his support amongst Conservative MPs was negligible. Instead he threw his support behind Kenneth Clarke's bid. Under William Hague he became shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment, but left the shadow cabinet in 1998, and has remained a backbencher since.

When David Cameron was elected to lead the Conservative party in December 2005, Dorrell was appointed co-chairman, with Baroness Perry, of the Public Service Improvement policy group.

His family business Wensum PLC went into administration in the first half of 2009, and was bought out using a controversial pre-pack deal, leaving behind an estimated £4 million of debts. Stephen Dorrell now owns 15% of the new company.


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