John Gummer: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 John Gummer MP

Gummer in March 2006

In office
27 May 1993 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Michael Howard
Succeeded by Michael Meacher

In office
24 July 1989 – 27 May 1993
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded by John MacGregor
Succeeded by Gillian Shephard

In office
11 June 1983 – 2 September 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Cecil Parkinson
Succeeded by Norman Tebbit

Member of Parliament
for Suffolk Coastal
Eye (1979-1983)
Assumed office 
3 May 1979
Preceded by Harwood Harrison
Majority 9,685 (18.4%)

Member of Parliament
for Lewisham West
In office
18 June 1970 – 28 February 1974
Preceded by James Dickens
Succeeded by Christopher Price

Born 26 November 1939 (1939-11-26) (age 70)
Brompton, London, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Penelope Jane Gardner
Alma mater Selwyn College, Cambridge
Religion Roman Catholic

John Selwyn Gummer MP (born 26 November 1939), is a British politician, and Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal. He is chairman of the environmental consultancy company Sancroft International. He is also a non-executive director and regular columnist for the Catholic Herald.

On 30 December 2009, Gummer announced his intention to stand down at the 2010 General Election in order to participate in an international campaign against global warming.[1]


Early life

John Gummer was one of the three sons of a Church of England minister whose living was in Gravesend, Kent. He began his education at Holy Trinity Primary School in Brompton, London and later went to King's School, Rochester. He read History at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was the chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association and later President of the Cambridge Union Society.

Whilst at Cambridge, he was a member of what became known as the Cambridge Mafia – a group of future Conservative Cabinet ministers, including Leon Brittan, Michael Howard, Kenneth Clarke, Norman Lamont, and Norman Fowler.

In 1962, Gummer joined Business Publications as an editor, leaving in 1964 to become editor in chief with Max Parrish & Oldbourne Press. He left to take up the position of special assistant to the chairman of BBC Publishing in 1967, transferring to become a publisher within the special projects department until 1969, when he was promoted to become the editorial coordinator, where he remained until he was first elected to Parliament. He has held various board level positions in publishing companies since his election.

Member of Parliament

At the 1964 general election, Gummer stood as a candidate in the Greenwich constituency, but was heavily defeated by the incumbent Labour MP, Richard Marsh. He stood again some 18 months later at the 1966 general election and lost even more heavily.

He was finally elected to the House of Commons on his third attempt, at the 1970 general election, when he narrowly unseated the sitting MP James Dickens in the Lewisham West constituency. However, at the February 1974 general election he lost the seat to Labour's Christopher Price, and failed to regain it in the October 1974 election.

In 1979, he eventually returned to the House of Commons, securing the seat of Eye, following the retirement of veteran Tory Harwood Harrison. He held the constituency until its abolition for the 1983 general election. Since then he has been the MP for Suffolk Coastal.

In government

Under Edward Heath, Gummer held various minor positions in the government, ultimately being appointed Conservative Party Vice-Chairman (a position he held until the fall of the government). In 1979, he was re-elected as an MP as the Conservative Party returned to Government. He held various government positions and also chaired the Conservative Party from 1983 to 1985; he was chairman at the time of the Brighton hotel bombing during the Conservative party conference. However, unlike his predecessor, Cecil Parkinson, and many of his successors, he did not hold cabinet rank at this time. He eventually joined the cabinet in 1989 as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, moving to become Secretary of State for the Environment under John Major in 1993. As Environment Secretary he introduced the UK's first Environmental Tax, the landfill tax. BBC Wildlife magazine described him as the "Environment Secretary against which all others are judged", putting him in the top ten environmental heroes [BBC Wildlife Magazine 2007]. In 1997, he was awarded a Medal of Honour by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Since the 1997 Labour election victory he has been a backbencher. He is chairman of the all-party group on architecture and planning. Along with the likes of Kenneth Clarke, Michael Howard and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Gummer is one the few remaining MPs who served in the cabinet of Margaret Thatcher.

Personal life

He has been married to Penelope Jane Gardner since 1977 and they live near Debenham in the Mid Suffolk District. They have two sons and two daughters: Benedict, Felix, Leonora, and Cordelia.

For many years, including his period as Conservative Party Chairman, he was known as John Selwyn Gummer. He dropped the Selwyn from common usage as he entered the cabinet in the late 1980s.

He is one of the members of Thatcher's cabinet who were said to have wept when she met with them individually on the evening before her resignation in November 1990 to seek their views on whether she should continue to fight for the party leadership.

His son, Benedict, was selected in August 2007 to fight the Ipswich constituency at the next general election for the Conservative party, a seat which borders his own.[2]

He was a member of the General Synod of the Church of England from 1978 until he left the church and was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1992, following the decision of the General Synod allowing the ordination of women to the priesthood.

He introduced an Early Day Motion on Climate Change[3] to Parliament along with Michael Meacher and Norman Baker. In 2001, he called on the European Union to come together against nuclear terrorism.[4]

He is a pro-European moderate, and was a supporter of Kenneth Clarke's leadership bids.

He is also a strong opponent of abortion. The former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth records in his published diaries an incident when Gummer was campaigning in Brandreth's Chester constituency during the 1997 General Election campaign:

"John's happiest moment comes when we encounter a lone Labour activist... The man mutters something derogatory as JG strides past. John spins round. 'What does your candidate have to say on abortion then?' The man is momentarily stunned, and then declares with some conviction, 'She believes in a woman's right to choose.' 'Oh yes, oh yes,' trills John, voice rising, breath quickening: 'She believes in murdering babies does she? Just so we know.' The Secretary of State for the Environment is smacking his lips now. 'You want us to vote for someone who believes in murdering babies. Thank you! Thank you very much!'" [5]

Despite this outburst, the Labour candidate, Christine Russell, won the seat.

Soon after the election of the new leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, in 2005, Gummer was asked to chair a new Quality of Life Policy Group[6] with Zac Goldsmith as his deputy. He was chosen for his experience as Secretary of State for the Environment and known interest in environmental issues.


He is noted for delaying a ban on beef in 1989,[7] and for the way he attempted to feed a hamburger to his four-year-old daughter Cordelia at the height of the BSE panic in 1990, though photographs of the event were staged and the burger was in fact bitten into by a civil servant.

In 1993, he was called a "drittsekk" (translated as "shitbag")[8][9] by the Norwegian Minister of Environmental Affairs, Thorbjørn Berntsen, who commented "John Gummer is the biggest shitbag I have ever met."[9] after Gummer had refused to discuss an acid rain problem on Norwegian soil.[9][10]

In 2009, Gummer achieved notoriety because of his parliamentary expense claims, in which he charged the public purse for, among other things, mole-catching, jackdaw nest removal and "gardening" on his country estate at Debenham in Suffolk.[11]


  • 1966: When the Coloured People Come, by John Gummer, Oldbourne, ISBN 0-356-01199-2
  • 1969: To Church with Enthusiasm, by John Gummer
  • 1971: The Permissive Society: Fact or Fantasy?, by John Selwyn Gummer, Cassell, ISBN 0-304-93821-1
  • 1974: The Christian Calendar, by Leonard W. Cowie and John Selwyn Gummer, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 0-297-76804-2
  • 1987: Faith in Politics: Which Way Should Christians Vote?, by John Gummer, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, ISBN 0-281-04299-3
  • 1990: Christianity and Conservatism, by John Gummer
  • 1997: Green Buildings Pay, edited by B. W. Edwards, foreword by John Gummer, Spon Press, ISBN 0-419-22730-X
  • 1998: From Earth Summit to Local Agenda 21: Working Towards Sustainable Development, edited by William Laffery, Katarina Eckerberg, William M. Laffery, foreword by John Gummer, Earthscan Publications, ISBN 1-85383-547-1
  • 1998: Precision Agriculture: Practical Applications of New Technologies, by John Gummer and Peter Botschek, The International Fertiliser Society, ISBN 0-85310-062-4
  • 2002: Goat Farming, by Alan Mowlem, foreword by John S Gummer, Farming Press, ISBN 0-85236-235-8
  • Weekly columnist in Estates Gazette magazine[12]

External links


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Dickens
Member of Parliament for Lewisham West
1970Feb 1974
Succeeded by
Christopher Price
Preceded by
Harwood Harrison
Member of Parliament for Eye
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal
1983 – present
Political offices
Preceded by
Cecil Parkinson
Chairman of the Conservative Party
1983 – 1985
Succeeded by
Norman Tebbit
Title last held by
Cecil Parkinson
1984 – 1985
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
Preceded by
John MacGregor
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
1989 – 1993
Succeeded by
Gillian Shephard
Preceded by
Michael Howard
Secretary of State for the Environment
1993 – 1997
Succeeded by
John Prescott
as Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions

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