Ex-Devon MP caught up in expenses row is made a Lord

Lest we forget!

A good resume of the life a well connected Tory leads.

But what did Hugo Swire ever do for East Devon?  – Owl

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com 

A former East Devon Conservative MP Hugo Swire who was caught up in the parliamentary expenses row has been given a place in the House of Lords in the list of political peerages recommended by Boris Johnson. Sir Hugo, 62, represented the East Devon constituency from 2001 to 2019, when he stepped down at the General Election and was replaced by Tory Simon Jupp.

The Eton-educated former Grenadier Guard, who worked as a financial consultant and director of the auction house Sotheby’s, was a close ally of Tory leader David Cameron. In his bachelor days he dated the model Jerry Hall, who later married Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.

His wife Sasha is the daughter of Sir John Nott, the Conservative Defence Secretary during the Falklands War. She was Sir Hugo’s parliamentary assistant for 18 years, and caused a stir in 2020 with the publication of her memoir Diary of an MP’s Wife. It gave an insight into life at the top of Tory party, with less than flattering descriptions of senior politicians including Mr Cameron as ‘drunken Dave’, Boris Johnson as ‘calculating’ and Theresa May as a ‘glumbucket’.

Sir Hugo featured in leaked footage from a Conservative Party fundraising auction in 2015 when he joked about people on benefits and buying luxury cars on MPs’ expense. In 2009, after controversy over MPs’ expenses hit the headlines, Sir Hugo revealed he had voluntarily paid back £395 he claimed for a leather Mulberry laptop bag, which he said he used every day. He said after reviewing his expenses, he decided it could be considered ‘extravagant’.

He also came under media scrutiny in 2010 for claiming £23,000 a year to rent his family home in his East Devon constituency, while living in a London property owned by his wife, according to the Mail Online . His claim was said to have been cut to £10,000, the equivalent of a one-bedroom flat, but he appealed arguing that the decision was unfair on MPs needing to rent a home in their constituencies. Details emerged after he was told to repay £788 claimed in expenses for a gardener at his constituency home. Sir Hugo said he had been unaware that there was a guideline price.

In 2013, the Sunday Mirror reported he had claimed £3,198.61 for oil and gas in the year to March – the eighth-highest amount for any MP. In response, his office told a local newspaper in a statement that he had followed Parliamentary rules and was working to reduce his expenses claims. He earlier justified employing his wife as an assistant, telling an East Devon newspaper in 2009 she was a “highly qualified journalist” who ran his website and produced his press releases, and “has an extraordinary knowledge of the constituency”.

Sir Hugo Swire, pictured with his wife Sasha, represented East Devon from 2001 to 2019 (Image: Express & Echo/Gareth Willians)

A close ally of Conservative prime minister David Cameron, in 2010 he was appointed as Minister of State for Northern Ireland in the newly-elected Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. He was then given the job as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas in 2012. He resigned in July 2016 alongside other ministers close to Mr Cameron, after the prime minister quit following the Brexit referendum. He was knighted in the prime minister’s resignation honours list.

Sir Hugo tweeted on Friday, when the list of life peerages was published: “Honoured and delighted to be going to the House of Lords”.

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