Anna was born in Worksop in North Nottinghamshire in 1956. She first joined the Conservative Party as a student in 1975, and became the first Tory woman on the Executive of the National Union of Students.
She became a broadcast journalist and then a criminal barrister, practising in Nottingham. She first stood for election to the House of Commons in 2005, before winning the seat of Broxtowe at the 2010 General Election, becoming the first women to represent the constituency.
Anna was made a Parliamentary Private Secretary – a ministerial aide – in the Department of Health in September 2010, before being promoted to become Minister for Public Health in 2012. In 2014 she became the first woman to be appointed as a Defence Minister.
In 2015 she was appointed Minister of State for Business, becoming a Privy Counsellor and attending Cabinet.
Anna returned to the backbenches in July 2016. She is a founding member of the People’s Vote campaign for a referendum on the Brexit deal. She sits on both the Women & Equalities and Work & Pensions Select Committees of the House of Commons.
Anna has two daughters aged 27 and 28.
“We share your values, your dreams and your aspirations”
Anna’s statement 20 February 2019
The Conservative party has been very good to me. I have been elected three times to represent the people of Broxtowe as their Member of Parliament. And I am very grateful for the support and the hard work of a small team of activists, mostly members of Broxtowe Conservatives – they know who they are – friends and family, who enabled me to win.
I served in two Governments as a minister in health, the first woman MP Defence Minister and in 2015 I was promoted to attend Cabinet as Business Minister.
I rejoined the Party in 2002 to a welcome that warmed as the desperately needed modernisation of the Conservatives took shape. I was a single mother of two children, I’d worked in television as a reporter and a presenter and then spent 16 years as a criminal barrister in my home city of Nottingham.
You don’t leave a political party that you’ve called home for many years without a great deal of thought and a considerable amount of heartache. And it is with a heavy heart that I’ve today resigned my membership of the Conservative Party.
Last night an old friend who I first met back in the 1970s (I can’t tell you which year because it’s so long ago I’ve forgotten). But in any event, we were both student members of Birmingham University Conservatives. And he sent me a text. ‘Don’t leave’ he said, ‘stay and fight them. It’s our party not theirs’.
He, like my many friends in the Parliamentary Party, is a One Nation Tory from the Ken Clark wing of the Tory Party. The ‘them’ of which he spoke, are the right, the anti EU wing of the Conservative party. Yesterday Sir John Major spoke about them, describing the more extreme of their number as zealots (he’s called them far worse) but he correctly identified the hollowing out of traditional Tories in the membership of the Conservative party.
Well as my friend – and he is my friend – Chuka Umunna said on Monday you don’t join a political party to fight it, and you don’t stay in it and skirmish in the margins when the truth is the battle is over and the other side has won. The right wing, the hard line anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every leader for the last forty years – are now running the Conservative Party from top to toe. They are the Conservative Party.
Dear friends, and they are dear friends, now former colleagues who share those One Nation values and principles will of course today deny it. But I believe in their heads and hearts they know it’s over. And the reason they know its over is because we lost the referendum and Brexit now defines and shapes the Conservative Party.
Now I’m a former criminal barrister so I’m pretty much predisposed to evidence and it’s on the evidence that I say the Conservative Party is in the state it’s in and I suggest that evidence is overwhelming.
After the Prime Minister lost her Withdrawal Agreement she said she would reach out to build a consensus. Of course she should have done that at the beginning of all of this, at the beginning of her premiership, not at the eleventh hour. And in that spirit, the first people that she invited into No 10 were the ERG – the very people who just weeks beforehand had called a vote of no confidence in her leadership and had delighted in calling out her failings to any passing microphone on College Green. But Mainstream Conservatives with a fine record of loyalty who’d had served at the highest level in Government (and I hope she’ll forgive me for using her name), but people like Justine Greening, who’d rejected the deal for perfectly sensible reasons, are still waiting for a call.
At a local level, and I don’t include my Association in this (though we have had our problems with infiltration), but overwhelmingly the majority of Associations are being infiltrated by a nationally orchestrated entryism blatantly designed to remove rebel MPs who they label traitors.
Conservatives with the stature, the service and the loyalty of Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Oliver Letwin the former Party Chair Dame Caroline Spelman are being hounded and they are being pilloried. My friend Nick Boles faces deselection, as do others. Some face motions of no confidence – and their only offence has been to support the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement. And even though the party Chairman is on the traitors list, he has failed to provide the firm political leadership that is demanded.
The result of this BlueKIP, as Sarah has called it, and what we call the purple Momentum is that too many of our now former colleagues fear their Associations more than they fear their electorate – the people they’ve been voted to represent.
It’s a form of tyranny and it’s ironic that Conservatives observe and condemn it in the Labour Party but it’s happening in their own party. And in the words of my other dear friend, and my near neighbour, Chris Leslie: ‘enough is enough’.
This shift to the right began shortly after Theresa May became leader and notwithstanding her fine words on the steps of Downing Street which, as Sarah said, we all three of us cheered. Within a few months the modernising reforms that had taken years to achieve were destroyed. Citizens of the world were cast out as citizens of nowhere. Remain voters marginalised and insulted as members of the Liberal Metropolitan Elite – that didn’t go down very well in places like Broxtowe, among my remain voters. And of course the electorate gave their verdict in June 2017 when we lost over 30 Conservative MP colleagues in a truly disastrous General Election campaign. And where are we now? Well we’re with EU citizens who’ve lived and contributed to this country for decades being labelled as queue jumpers.
One Nation Conservatives are pursuing a Brexit policy they don’t believe in and they know it will harm the economic prospects of this remarkable country and their own constituents. Others like Sir John Major bravely battle on making the point that 63% of people in this country did not vote for Brexit and even more did not vote for the no-deal Brexit that unfortunately Mrs May appears willing to deliver.
But the decision to leave the Conservatives as Heidi and Sarah have identified is not all about Brexit. It’s about facing the reality of British politics as it stands today and is set to continue unless we do our duty as elected representatives.
You win in politics when you’re with a team, and in that team with shared values and principles and I believe mine are no longer welcome in the Conservative Party. I’m not leaving the Conservative Party – it’s left us. On Monday Chuka held out the baton to people like us and today we seize it and in turn we hold it out to fellow One Nation Conservatives and like-minded Lib Dems that I certainly had the pleasure to work with in the coalition Government. Please, come and join us.
And to the millions of people who feel abandoned and not represented by either of our two broken main parties and indeed all our parties: we share your values, your dreams and your aspirations. We three have never been called your so called ‘typical Tory’ – like everyone we’re tired of labels, we’re tired of tribalism and we’re tired of British politics being dominated from its extremes. It’s time for change and we are a team with your support that will deliver that change.