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The Honourable
 Nicholas Soames
 MP

Member of Parliament
for Mid Sussex
Incumbent
Assumed office 
1 May 1997
Preceded by Tim Renton
Majority 5,890 (11.9%)

Member of Parliament
for Crawley
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by new constituency
Succeeded by Laura Moffatt

Born 12 February 1948 (1948-02-12) (age 61)
Croydon
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) (1) Catherine Weatherall (1981-1988)
(2) Serena Smith (married 1993)

Arthur Nicholas Winston Soames (born 12 February 1948), known as Nicholas Soames, is a British Conservative politician.

He is Member of Parliament for Mid Sussex and was Minister of State for the Armed Forces. His main political interests are defence, international relations, rural affairs and industry.

He was born in Croydon and is a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, the son of Lord and Lady Soames, a nephew of the former Defence Secretary Duncan Sandys and Diana Churchill; the journalist Randolph Churchill and the actress and dancer Sarah Churchill and a great nephew of the founders of the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell and Olave Baden-Powell. His brother is the industrialist Rupert Soames.

He has been married twice. His first marriage (1981-1988) was to Catherine Weatherall (the sister of Isobel Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne), by whom he has one son, Harry Soames. He married, secondly, Serena Smith (a niece of the Duchess of Grafton) in 1993. They have one son and one daughter.

Contents

Career

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Education and military career

After attending St. Aubyn's Preparatory School in Sussex, he received his secondary education at Eton College. Later, he studied at Mons Officer Cadet School. He served in the 11th Hussars in West Germany and Britain. He is currently the Honorary Colonel of the Bristol University Officer Training Corps.

Early career

In 1970 he became Equerry to the Prince of Wales. In 1972 he left to work as a stock broker. In 1974, he became a personal assistant; first to Sir James Goldsmith and then in 1976 to United States Senator Mark Hatfield, whose service he left in 1978 to become a director of Bland Welch, Lloyds Brokers. Between 1979 and 1981, he was an assistant director of the Sedgwick Group.

Parliamentary career

Soames has been an MP without interruption since the 1983 general election. He represented Crawley from 1983 up until the 1997 general election (when Labour replaced Conservatives in Crawley and in government). In the election he won the constituency of Mid Sussex and has remained its MP since.

He has served as a Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food between 1992 and 1994, Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the Ministry of Defence under John Major between 1994 and 1997 and as the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 2003-2005. He is also the chairman of Framlington Second Dual Trust PLC and a non-executive director of Aegis Defence Services.

During the rebellion by eurosceptic Conservative MPs against the Maastricht Treaty, Soames threatened to close down a meat-processing company owned by rebel Conservative MP Christopher Gill. Soames, Minister for Food at the time, said to Gill: "I will close every abattoir you own".[1]

On 9 May 2005, shortly after Michael Howard announced his intention to resign as leader of the Conservative Party, Soames resigned from the shadow cabinet. He immediately ended speculation that he intended to stand for the post of leader, saying that he merely wanted to be free to think about and influence the future of the party. He added that he was interested in joining the executive of the 1922 Committee. He later announced his support for David Cameron.

Criticisms

Soames has been referred to in Private Eye and by some Members of Parliament as Bunter after the famously portly public schoolboy in Frank Richards' Billy Bunter books.

In 1996, he was criticised by the left-wing political comedian Mark Thomas in his Channel 4 television programme, who suggested that 14 May 1996 should be National Soames Day.[2] Thomas accused him of dishonestly registering some inherited heirlooms, including a "three tier mahogany buffet with partially-reeded slender upright balustrade supports", as conditionally exempt works of art, which do not attract inheritance tax if the public has access to them. Thomas claimed the public had not been granted access.[3][4]

Soames, known as a bon viveur (he was once called a "one-man food mountain" by Tony Banks, Labour MP), clashed with a businessman at a top Chinese restaurant in summer 2004. Afterwards, The Sunday Times (18 July 2004, p3) dubbed him Fat Boy Dim.

It has been suggested that Soames was the unnamed senior Conservative at the 2004 party conference who was quoted in The Guardian as allegedly saying that "the trouble is that the Tory party is being run by Michael Howard, Maurice Saatchi and Oliver Letwin, and none of them really know what it is to be English" (The New Statesman and The Sunday Telegraph have printed a similar quote bemoaning the fact that "Saatchi, Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin are in charge; could they know how Englishmen felt?"). The claim that Saatchi, Howard and Letwin are 'not really English' has been perceived as anti-Semitic, as all three have Jewish antecedents.

According to the book Women in Parliament published in 2005, Soames has been named as the 'most sexist' MP, with several female MPs stating that he has made vulgar comments. One says they retaliated by shouting "click" at him — a reference to a claim that having sex with him was "like having a wardrobe fall on you with the key still in it". It has frequently been alleged that Soames makes repeated cupping gestures with his hands, suggestive of female breasts, when women are trying to speak in parliament, to sexually harass and distract them from performing politically.[5] He is also alleged to have attempted to harass Director of Communications Alastair Campbell by phoning him and saying "you sex god, you Adonis, you the greatest of all great men." Unknown to Soames, he was actually speaking to Campbell's young son.[6]

Soames often heckles "Old Labour" MPs such as John Prescott during Prime Minister's Question Time. He has been accused of class snobbery, due to reports that he made a habit of regularly addressing Prescott with the phrase "Mine's a gin and tonic, Giovanni, and would you ask my friend what he's having", a reference to Prescott's former employment as a ship's steward.[7]

On May 15 2008 Soames was disqualified from driving for two months, fined £200 and was ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and costs of £35 by Crawley magistrates after he pleaded guilty to riding a quad bike on a public road without insurance. A photograph of Soames driving with passengers who included three children and a pregnant woman, was taken from footage filmed by hunt saboteurs in Slaugham, West Sussex, on New Year's Day. It was given to the police and was published by the Daily Mirror.

See also

References

External links

Offices held

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
(new constituency)
Member of Parliament for Crawley
19831997
Succeeded by
Laura Moffatt
Preceded by
Tim Renton
Member of Parliament for Mid Sussex
1997–present
Incumbent

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