Esther McVey, MP.
Chairmen: Chris Lewis and the Sunday Times political team
Politicians are, by the nature of their job, among the most powerful people in the country. A list of the most influential people in politics could therefore write itself; however, our panel has taken a different route when selecting the top 20. Instead of choosing individuals because of the office they hold, the panel has focused on the Parliamentarians who have had a big impact through their campaigning in the last twelve months and who are expected to continue to be influential figures in years to come.
Chris Lewis is a journalist, author and finance analyst. The company he founded in 1995, Lewis PR, has gone on to become an award-winning global communications agency with over 300 clients. Chris has coached a range of senior politicians, business leaders and celebrities at the highest level. He co-founded Women in Parliament, an All-Party Parliamentary Group to promote more women in politics. In 2013, together with Chelsea College of Art & Design, he launched Kupambana, an international Arts Foundation focusing on bringing the visual arts and communications together.
Tom Watson, MP.
Tom Watson is the Labour MP for West Bromwich East. He began work for the Labour Party in 1993 as national development officer for youth. Watson has progressed through the ranks, becoming parliamentary secretary to the Cabinet Office between 2008 and 2009 and deputy chair of the Labour Party in 2011. He personally targeted Rupert Murdoch with his campaigning over the Milly Dowler affair as he pushed for a full investigation into phone-hacking. As a popular Member of Parliament, with friends on both sides of the House of Commons, Watson is in a unique position to influence UK politics.
Nigel Farage, MEP. Leader of UKIP.
Controversial figure Nigel Farage is an MEP and leader of the UK Independence Party. In the last year, UKIP’s rise and the party’s success in the local elections has been extraordinary as Farage has dragged his party from the periphery into the present. In the local elections in 2013, almost a quarter of those voting chose UKIP candidates to represent them. As a threat to all of the major political parties, UKIP is considered a serious force to be reckoned with and is seen by many as the crucial axis determining whether the Conservative party pivots towards success or failure in the next general election.
Margot James, MP.
Now Conservative MP for Stourbridge, Margot James’s interest in politics was evident from an early age. As a student, James chaired the Conservative Association at LSE where she graduated with a degree in economics and government and a year after graduation she began working the press office of the Conservative Central Office. Entrepreneurial James built up and sold her own company before she was elected to her current role in 2010. James is the first openly lesbian MP in the Conservative Party, and acts as a key player in promoting women in Parliament. David Cameron appointed James to be vice-chairman of the Conservative Party for women’s issues where she formed the Women’s Policy Group and contributed to the policy review process underway in the Conservative Party.
The Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP.
The Rt Hon Greg Clark is the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells and was financial secretary to the Treasury until October last year. Prior to entering politics, Clark worked at Boston Consulting Group, the business strategy group. Recognised as George Osborne’s right hand man while at the Treasury, Clark has also been director of policy for the Conservative Party for three successive leaders: Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague. In October 2013, Clark was appointed as minister of state in the Cabinet Office where his responsibilities focus on cities policy, local growth and political and constitutional reform.
Esther McVey, MP.
Liverpudlian and former television presenter Esther McVey is the Conservative MP for Wirral West and minister for employment. Committed to getting young people into work; she was the first MP to employ an apprentice and persuaded the House of Commons authorities to introduce the scheme. McVey also recently launched a campaign designed to raise awareness of a scheme designed to help young people get into work through Sector Based Work Academies. McVey has also established the biggest business women’s network in the North West. She is expected to rise through the ranks of the Tory party.
Chris Leslie, MP.
Bright and likeable Chris Leslie is the Labour MP for Nottingham East. Since 2005, Leslie has been the director of the New Local Government Network, the scheme promoting the modernisation of local government. In 2007 he led Gordon Brown’s successful (uncontested) campaign for the Labour Party leadership. In his current position of shadow financial secretary to the Treasury he is the right hand man to Ed Balls. Leslie is “anxious” to increase Labour’s ballot box prospects and if Yvette Cooper were to become leader of the Labour Party, Leslie is a likely candidate for chancellor.
Dr Stella Creasy, MP.
The young and charismatic Stella Creasy, Labour/Co-op MP for Walthamstow, has come a long way since failing her 11 +. It was as a sixth former that Creasy realised she first wanted to go into politics when she went to the Brighlingsea docks to protest against the exportation of live animals. The 1995 local elections were taking place and Creasy realised that if Labour candidate won the council position, they would also control the port and achieve the changes she wanted. Now one of Labour’s rising stars, Creasy was appointed as shadow minister for business, innovation and skills by Ed Miliband last year, where she has been particularly active in the political forum with her campaigns for increased regulation of payday loan companies.
The Rt Hon Danny Alexander, MP.
Seen as a lynchpin liberal, Danny Alexander is the Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Naim, Badenoch and Strathspey, having been elected to the newly-created seat in 2005. In the 2010 general election, Alexander was re-elected to the seat with an increased majority. As chief secretary to the Treasury, Alexander holds the second most senior position in HM Treasury where he is responsible for public expenditure. Alexander also played an integral role in leading the Liberal Democrat team in their successful coalition negotiations. Young, bright and hardworking, he is popular across the parties.
The Rt Hon Yvette Cooper, MP.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper is one of the highest ranking women in the Labour Party. She is widely admired across the House both as a politician and wife (she is married to Ed Balls, MP). Having received a BA from Balliol College, Oxford, been a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University and gained an MSc from the London School of Economics, there is no doubting Cooper’s cutthroat intellect. Holding a number of prominent positions within the party over her time in politics such as shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, chief secretary to the Treasury and shadow foreign secretary, Cooper is tipped by some as a future candidate for Prime Minister.
The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, MP.
Iain Duncan Smith is Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green. He is also the secretary of state for work and pensions. In this role, Duncan Smith has been responsible for the recent wide-ranging welfare reform measures that the Conservative Party has implemented. Duncan Smith has attempted to do what previous governments have shied away from: deliver a mutually fair welfare system for both the claimants and the tax payer. He is considered a decent man by his peers and he has survived the glare of public scrutiny.
Robert Halfon, MP.
Conservative MP for Harlow Robert Halfon contested the seat twice, in 2001 and 2005, before eventually winning it in 2010. Halfon has played an integral role in establishing a new party apprentice programme with the charity New Deal of the Mind which offers 16 to 19 year olds the chance to spend three days a week working at Westminster and two days a week studying. Halfon has also been staunchly committed to campaigning for fair fuel prices. He founded the Petrol Promise campaign, firmly supports Fair Fuel UK and raised the issue of cheaper fuel in Parliament.
Matthew Hancock, MP.
Former Bank of England economist Matthew Hancock is the Conservative MP for West Suffolk. As minister for skills he is responsible for apprenticeships, further education and sixth forms. With a record number of people taking part in apprenticeships, Hancock plays an integral role in their creation and development. Hancock previously held the role of chief of staff to George Osborne. He became a parliamentary under-secretary after only two years as an MP. After training as a jockey for a charity event he became the first MP to win a horse race since World War I, and he also took part in record-breaking cricket match in the Arctic as the most northern cricket game ever to be played.
Brooks Newmark, MP.
Conservative MP for Braintree Brooks Newmark is a member of the Treasury Select Committee. Born in Westport, Connecticut, gifted Newmark was educated at Harvard College, gained an MBA from Harvard Business School and was a politics research graduate at Worcester College, Oxford. Elected as Conservative MP for Braintree in 2005, Newmark also spent time in the Whips’ Office, where he served as shadow Treasury whip and in Government as whip in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and as a Lord Commissioner HM Treasury. Thanks to his 20 years in finance, Newmark was heavily involved in the investigation into the tax avoidance schemes of Google and Starbucks.
The Rt Hon Andy Burnham, MP.
Andy Burnham is Labour MP for Leigh and shadow secretary of state for health. From constituency Labour Party secretary to secretary of state, Burnham has represented the Labour Party at every level over the last 25 years. His awareness of politics was triggered by a trip to Chester Zoo in 1979 when he saw a car sticker reading “Don’t blame me, I voted Labour”. Burnham asked his father what the sticker meant and his political awareness grew from that moment. Burnham is an elegant player with a significant media presence and is a constant thorn in the side of health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Alex Salmond, MSP.
Alex Salmond is the leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland. Salmond was elected as an MP in 1987 representing Banff &Buchan. In 1990, he was elected as National Convener for the Scottish National Party. In 2007, Salmond became the first nationalist ever to be elected First Minister of Scotland, making political history. Alex Salmond has gained great popularity as First Minister of Scotland thanks to his ability to build and embrace unlikely alliances across the political spectrum. He is the longest serving First Minster of Scotland and is an integral and influential figure in the fight for Scottish Independence.
Boris Johnson. Mayor of London.
Quick-witted classicist Boris Johnson is probably one of Britain’s most-recognisable politicians. Following his graduation from Oxford, Johnson endured one week in management consultancy before joining The Times as a trainee reporter. His career in journalism culminated in him becoming editor of The Spectator. In 2001, Johnson was elected as the MP for Henley where he served until his election to the post of Mayor of London in 2008. Johnson has developed and advanced many schemes across London such as the cycle-hire scheme known colloquially as “Boris Bikes” , and greener buses. As Mayor, Johnson was hugely influential in the organisation of London 2012, which is considered to have been some of the most memorable Olympic and Paralympic Games in history.
Sajid Javid, MP.
Born in Rochdale Sajid Javid, the son of a bus driver, moved with his family to "Britain's most dangerous street" in Bristol when he was young - so dubbed because of the high level of dangerous crime in the area. Educated at the local comprehensive school, he went on to study economics and politics at the University of Exeter and then embarked on a career in banking. He left banking in 2009 to pursue a career in politics, and was announced as the Conservative candidate for Bromsgrove in 2010. He won the election with a majority of 11,308. He is now financial secretary to the Treasury, has the ear of George Osborne and is a savvy media performer.
Claire Perry, MP.
Educated as Brasenose College Oxford and Harvard, Claire Perry worked in banking and finance before moving into politics in 2006. She became Conservative MP for Devizes in 2010 and was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Philip Hammond in 2011. Her views on what the Conservatives need to do to attract more women voters are listened to carefully by Downing Street. The mother of three also recently led a high-profile campaign to protect children against internet pornography, favouring a form of internet censorship that will apply to all users unless they opt out.
Chuka Umunna, MP.
Chuka Umunna was born in London in 1978 and his father tragically died in a car accident in Nigeria when Umunna was 14 years old. He attended St Dunstan's College in Catford and went on to study English and French Law at the University of Manchester. After continuing his studies at Nottingham Law School he began working as a solicitor. In 2008 he became the Labour Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Streatham, and was elected as MP in 2010. The protégé of Peter Mandelson, Umunna is now the shadow business secretary and a bright hope of the new Labour tendency. Always impeccably groomed, he exudes an air of effortless success.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge, MBE, MP.
Margaret Hodge was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1944. After World War II she moved to London with her family, where her father set up the steel-trading company Stemcor, which is now the world's largest privately owned steel-trading corporation. She attended boarding school and then studied economics at the London School of Economics, working in market research after graduating. She first entered politics as a councillor in Islington, and became MP for Barking in 1994. She recently has found a new lease of life chairing the Commons public accounts committee, and has won a reputation for making company bosses squirm by exposing their tax-avoiding tactics.