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Crispin Blunt
Crispin Blunt

Crispin Jeremy Rupert Blunt MP (born 15 July 1960) is a British Conservative Party politician. He has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Reigate since 1997[1], and from May 2010 to September 2012 he was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Youth Justice within the Ministry of Justice.

Blunt first entered the House of Commons at the 1997 general election, when he replaced the then MP Sir George Gardiner who had been deselected by the Constituency Conservative Association Executive Council.

In 2013, Blunt was himself deselected by the Constituency Executive Council, amid speculation that this was due to his public announcement that he was gay.[2] However, after a ballot of party members in Reigate, the decision was overturned by a margin of 5–1 and Blunt was reselected as the Conservative candidate for the 2015 general election.[3]

Early life and career

Blunt was born in Germany, one of three sons of English parents Adrienne (née Richardson) and Major-General Peter Blunt (1923–2003).[4] He was educated at Wellington College, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he won the Queen's Medal, gaining a Regular Commission, before reading Politics at University College, Durham between 1981 and 1984, where he was elected President of the Durham Union Society in 1983[5] and graduated with a 2:1 degree.[6] In 1991, he gained an MBA at the Cranfield School of Management.[7]

Blunt was commissioned as an Army Officer into the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary's Own) and served until 1990. During the 1980s, he was stationed in Cyprus, Germany and Britain, serving as a Troop Leader, Regimental Operations Officer and Armoured Reconnaissance Squadron Commander. He resigned his commission as a Captain in 1990, having been awarded the Queen's Medal.[8][9]

Blunt contested his first Parliamentary seat at the 1992 general election, as the Conservative Party candidate in West Bromwich East.[10] From 1991 to 1992, Blunt was a representative of the Forum of Private Business.[11] In 1993, he was appointed as Special Adviser to Malcolm Rifkind the then-Secretary of State for Defence, and worked in the same capacity when Rifkind became Foreign Secretary between 1995 and 1997.

Member of Parliament

At the 1997 general election, Blunt was elected to Parliament as Member for Reigate in Surrey, replacing the long-serving strongly Eurosceptic MP Sir George Gardiner, who had been deselected by the local Conservative Party. Blunt was subsequently appointed to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

In July 1997, he was elected as Secretary of the Conservative Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Committee and the Conservative Middle East Council. In May 2000, he joined the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee and in July 2003 he was elected Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, a position he still occupies.[12]

The new Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith appointed Blunt to the Opposition front bench as Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland in September 2001. In July 2002, he was appointed as deputy to Tim Yeo, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.[13] On 1 May 2003 he resigned his position on the front bench, saying that Duncan Smith was a "handicap" to the Conservatives.[14] He decided to resign at that time in the expectation that the Conservative Party would make over 500 gains in local government elections, but in the belief that these would be achieved in spite of, rather than because of, Iain Duncan Smith's leadership. Blunt timed his resignation so that it became public after the polls closed but before the results were declared.[15]

The following day he was unanimously reselected by his local party as their prospective parliamentary candidate, but in May 2003 he failed to persuade 25 of his fellow Conservative MPs to call for a vote of confidence. He accepted that no challenge for the party leadership would be immediately forthcoming and returned to the back benches.[16] In November 2003, Michael Howard eventually replaced Duncan Smith after a vote of no confidence.

Blunt became a party whip under Howard, but on 9 June 2005 he took leave of absence from that role to support the expected leadership bid of Sir Malcolm Rifkind. However, when Rifkind was knocked out of the party leadership contest, Blunt returned to the Whips' office and wrote to all Party members in his constituency asking them to rank the remaining contenders in order of preference so he could best represent his constituents.[17]

Blunt is a former joint chair of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.[18] When the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition formed the Government in 2010, Blunt was appointed as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice. His responsibilities include: Prisons and probation, Youth justice, Criminal law and sentencing policy and Criminal justice. He is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.[19]

In November 2013, Blunt was re-selected to stand in the 2015 general election for the Conservative Party having undergone a postal ballot of constituency members. The postal ballot was triggered when the executive council came to a vote with a majority decision not to endorse his candidacy. Having won the postal ballot Blunt called for the executive council to consider their position.[20] The lack of support from a majority of the executive council was partly attributed to the allegedly homophobic views of some older Conservative voters in the area. Roger Newstead, the chairman of the Reigate South and Earlswood Branch, wrote a private letter to Dr Ben Mearns, who had resigned from the branch committee after protesting at the decision to force a postal ballot. In the letter, Newstead said: "I do not know what motivated my executive colleagues but I suspect that Crispin has been the author of his own misfortune. There is no doubt in my mind that his very public and totally unnecessary announcement that he was 'gay' was the final straw for some members, particularly those in the north of the borough, with whom there had been a number of previous disagreements on policy matters... A number of lady members were very offended by the manner in which his marriage broke down. Apparently Victoria's version was very different from Crispin's".[21]

Later clarifying his views to The Guardian newspaper, Newstead said: "I still say it was unnecessary [for Crispin Blunt to come out]. To me it was an error of judgment. I wouldn't have done anything like that. I would have just said if anyone had asked me: politicians have a unique lifestyle, it doesn't suit everybody and there is a long history of parliamentary marriages breaking down. You don't have to go out and tell people you have got homosexual tendencies – that sort of thing you know. It is a private matter and it shouldn't have been put in the public domain. He put it in the public domain".[21]

In May 2014, Blunt was one of seven unsuccessful candidates for the chairmanship of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.[22] On 19 June 2015, it was announced that he had been elected to the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee,[23] a post he held until 12 July 2017 when he was defeated by Conservative candidate Tom Tugendhat.[24]

Prior to the 2016 EU Referendum, Blunt supported Brexit, the successful outcome.

In September 2017, Blunt was elected chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, the cross-party group which represents humanists in Parliament.[25] In 2018, he became an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.[26]

Political views

A long-term Eurosceptic, Blunt issued a pamphlet in 1998, when first elected to parliament, calling for an in-out referendum for the United Kingdom.[27] In June 2016, Blunt championed LGBT rights, during the campaigning of the EU referendum, stating that the UK would be the "world's leading proponents of LGBTI rights, in or out of the EU".[28]

Parliamentary prayers are "not compatible" with a society that respects the rights of people to not practise a religion. That's according to an Early Day Motion put down by Crispin Blunt and backed by a cross-party group of his fellow MPs who believe that religious worship should not play any part in the formal business of the House of Commons.[29]

Personal life

Blunt married Victoria Jenkins in September 1990 in Kensington and they have a daughter, Claudia, (born March 1992) and son, Frederick, (born August 1994). His niece is the actress Emily Blunt.[30]

Blunt is a keen cricketer, representing the Parliamentarians team, alongside fellow MPs Peter Bone and Hugh Robertson.[31] He is also a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club.[32]

In August 2010, he announced that he was leaving his wife, in order "to come to terms with his homosexuality". They remain separated but have not divorced.[33][34] Blunt's voting record in Parliament had previously been broadly unsympathetic towards gay rights,[35] though slightly more favourable when compared with the majority of his Conservative colleagues.[36] He later stated regret for that part of his voting record.[33]

On 20 January 2016, he admitted to having used poppers, during a parliamentary debate that discussed banning them along with other legal highs. He stated, "I out myself as a user of poppers. I am astonished to find [the government] is proposing it to be banned and frankly so would many other gay men."[37]

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