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Sarah Teather

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Sarah Teather

Sarah Teather
Minister of State for Children and Families
In office
13 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Dawn Primarolo
Succeeded by Liz Truss (as Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Education and Childcare)
Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Housing
In office
8 October 2008 – 13 May 2010
Leader Nick Clegg
Preceded by Lembit Opik
Succeeded by Position abolished
Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
In office
20 December 2007 – 8 October 2008
Leader Nick Clegg
Preceded by Lembit Opik
Succeeded by Lord Thurso
Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills
In office
4 July 2007 – 20 December 2007
Leader Menzies Campbell
Preceded by Department Created
Succeeded by Stephen Williams
Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Education and Skills
In office
3 March 2006 – 4 July 2007
Preceded by Edward Davey
Succeeded by Department Abolished
Member of Parliament
for Brent Central
Brent East (2003–2010)
In office
18 September 2003 – 7 May 2015
Preceded by Paul Daisley
Succeeded by Dawn Butler
Majority 1,345 (3.0%)
Islington Borough Councillor for Hillrise Ward
In office
2 May 2002 – 18 September 2003
Preceded by Sheila Camp
Succeeded by Jayashankar Sharma
Personal details
Born (1974-06-01) 1 June 1974
Enfield, London, England
Political party Liberal Democrats
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge
Religion Roman Catholic[1]
Website Official site

Sarah Louise Teather (born 1 June 1974)[2] is a British Liberal Democrat politician, and a former Member of Parliament and Minister. She founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Guantanamo Bay.[3] and was Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees.[4]

She was first elected as an MP on 18 September 2003 in the Brent East by-election and re-elected with an increased majority on 5 May 2005 in the 2005 general election.[2] After the seat was abolished due to boundary changes she was selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the new constituency of Brent Central. Her main opponent was sitting Labour MP Dawn Butler, whose seat of Brent South was also abolished. Teather won by a small margin, and after the election she served as Minister of State in the Department for Education in the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats until she returned to the backbenches on 4 September 2012. On 7 September 2013, she announced that she would leave the Commons in 2015.[5]


  • Early life 1
  • In Westminster and Whitehall 2
    • Member of Parliament 2.1
    • Liberal Democrats Frontbench Team 2.2
    • Minister in the coalition government 2.3
    • Post-ministerial activities 2.4
  • Post-Westminster 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Teather was educated at the independent Leicester Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge, where she gained a 2:1 degree in Natural Sciences specialising in pharmacology.[6]

Teather initially embarked on a PhD at University College London, but left the course at the end of her first year. She went on to work as a policy adviser for a number of prominent groups including the Royal Society and the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief.[7]

Teather first contested an election on 7 June 2001 in the seat of Finchley and Golders Green. On 3 May 2002 she was elected to Islington London Borough Council as one of the three councillors representing Hillrise Ward.[8] She was then appointed by the council to serve as a school governor at Ashmount School.

Subsequent to her first election as an MP she resigned from Islington Council, resigned as a school governor at Ashmount school and withdrew as a candidate for the Greater London Assembly seat in North East London.

In Westminster and Whitehall

Member of Parliament

In 2003 Teather was selected as the party's candidate in the Brent East by-election, which was called after death of the Labour MP Paul Daisley.[9]

The by-election took place during the early stages of the Iraq War, in which Britain's involvement had proved a controversial decision with voters and dented support for the Labour government. The Liberal Democrats came from third place behind Labour and the Conservatives, with a 39.12% share of the total and 1,118 majority. At 29, Teather was the youngest Member of Parliament in Britain at the time.

The by-election was Labour's first by-election defeat in 15 years. Teather was the youngest member of the House, informally known as the Baby of the House.[10]

In her maiden speech when first elected as an MP in 2003, she spoke about her opposition to tuition fees:[11]

She successfully defended her seat in the 2005 general election, increasing her majority to over 2,700.[12] In May 2009, she was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of the "Saints" in the expenses scandal.[13] In Autumn 2006, she spent a week observing in schools, writing a daily blog of the experience for Guardian Unlimited.[14]

On 31 August 2006, she had announced her intention to stand for the new Brent Central constituency.[15] In her campaign for re-election in May 2010, Teather reiterated her opposition to tuition fees, signing a pledge to vote against them. She defeated by 1,300 votes the Labour candidate Dawn Butler, who had been the MP for Brent South in the previous parliament,[16] despite Butler having a notional 50.1% share of the vote in the new constituency.[17]

She established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Reprieve and Amnesty International.[18][19]

Liberal Democrats Frontbench Team

In parliament Teather became one of the highest-profile Liberal Democrat MPs. Initially acting as her party's spokesperson on London, after the 2005 general election she was promoted to the front bench to serve as Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on Community and Local Government.[20]

On 6 January 2006, 25 Liberal Democrat MPs signed a letter drafted by Teather and fellow frontbencher Ed Davey, indicating their unwillingness to continue working under party leader Charles Kennedy. The Guardian claimed the letter to be "the most damning" of the publicly expressed sentiments regarding Kennedy's position,[21] and later that day Kennedy announced his resignation. Teather supported Sir Menzies Campbell in the subsequent leadership election.[22][23]

She was promoted again to Shadow Secretary of State for Education[24] following Sir Menzies Campbell's election as leader on 2 March 2006.[20] In 2007 Teather became Shadow Secretary of State for Business, followed by becoming Shadow minister for Housing from 2008.

Minister in the coalition government

Following the formation of the coalition government in May 2010 Teather became Minister of State for Children and Families.

In September 2010 The Sunday Times reported that she had been accused by several Members of Parliament of lobbying her boss, the Education Secretary Michael Gove, for two schools in her constituency to be spared from the government's plans to cancel refurbishment projects on over 700 schools nationwide.The plans for refurbishment of the two schools, which had been previously cancelled, was reinstated.[25]

On 13 July 2011, Teather told the Family and Parenting Institute that she was extremely worried about the £26,000 Benefit Cap that the Coalition Government was introducing as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.[26][27] Teather then failed to turn up to a number of key votes on the Welfare Reform Act despite there being a three-line whip,[28][29] which resulted in a number of Conservative backbench MPs publicly calling for her to be sacked.

Conservative MP Peter Bone was reported as saying "Why is she still in her job if she can’t support Government policy? Conservative ministers have had to vote for things they personally don’t approve of in line with collective responsibility and the coalition agreement. Any Conservative minister who had behaved in the same way would be sacked. We cannot have one rule for the Conservatives and another for the Liberal Democrats."[30] Responding to the comments, a Lib Dem source said "Nick Clegg spoke to Sarah Teather about the Welfare Bill in the run-up to the vote. I'm not going to pretend she didn't have concerns about it. Sometimes events outside London are given priority even over a three-line whip – not very often, but it does happen."

In April 2011, Teather was questioned on BBC Television's Question Time over replacing the Education Maintenance Allowance. Arguing against the claim that fewer poor pupils would be served by its replacement, Teather claimed that it would actually be targeted better at those who actually needed government support.[31]

On 6 February 2012 Teather was part of a ministerial working group together with Tim Loughton and justice minister Jonathan Djanogly that was asked to come up with proposals within two months on how the law should be changed regarding how to amend the Children Act of 1989. According to The Guardian of 3 February 2012, that working group is aimed to include in the new Children Act one "presumption of shared parenting" for children's fathers and mothers after cases of divorce or spousal break-up.

On 4 September 2012, she was sacked from her post, as part of a broad government reshuffle, and returned to the backbenches.[32]

Post-ministerial activities

After leaving Government, Teather gave an interview to The Observer newspaper, in which she called the Benefit Cap "immoral and divisive".[32] She then voted against the Coalition for the first time, on a deferred division on the final regulations needed to put the Benefit Cap in place.[33] In late 2012, Teather chaired a Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people, which was supported by The Children's Society.[34]

In February 2013, Teather voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading.[35]

On 7 September 2013, Teather released a statement through her website to announce she would not contest the 2015 general election, saying her decision was "to do with some aspects of government policy", adding that she "no longer feels that Nick Clegg's party fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration".[5]

In 2014, Teather was held to be the shortest MP in stature in the then parliament, claiming, "I'm 4'10" (1.47m) - on a good day, with big hair".[36] (However, the same height was also attributed to Hazel Blears, in Guardian report on Frank Dobson who joked about Blears' height, "The good thing about global warming is that Hazel Blears will be the first to go when the water rises.")[37]

On 3 March 2015, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration published a report on the use of immigration detention. The inquiry panel, chaired by Sarah Teather, found that "the UK uses detention disproportionately and inappropriately" and recommended that a time limit of 28 days be introduced as the maximum length of time an individual can be held in an immigration removal centre.[38]

Teather stood down as an MP at the 2015 general election.[39]


After leaving Parliament, Teather joined the Jesuit Refugee Service on 1 June 2015 where she is working on the delivery of educational services in South Sudan and the Middle East.[40]

See also


  1. ^ Mark Greaves (14 May 2010). "Election ushers in new Catholic MPs". Catholic Herald (London). Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Sarah Teather". BBC NEWS. 
  3. ^ "Sarah Teather MP, Brent Central". Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  4. ^ "All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees". UK Parliament. 
  5. ^ a b "Sarah Teather to stand down as Lib Dem MP at 2015 election". BBC News. 2003-09-19. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  6. ^ "Who is Sarah Teather?". The Guardian (London). Press Association. 19 September 2003. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "Sarah Teather - MP for Brent East". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "Islington Borough Council 2002 Election Results and Turnout Statistics" (PDF). Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Brent East By-election 2003
  10. ^ "Youngest Members of Parliament since 1895". Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "Newest MP lambasts tuition and top-up fees in maiden speech". Brent Liberal Democrats. 27 November 2003. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Guardian: Politics: Election 2005, Brent East". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  13. ^ "MPs' Expenses: the saints". The Daily Telegraph (London). 18 May 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009. 
  14. ^ Sarah Teather (2 October 2006). "Sarah Teather: An emotional visit to the Manor". Guardian blog (London). Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Brent Central Lib Dems: Brent is my home, says Sarah". Brent Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  16. ^ "Brent Central election results". BBC. Retrieved 16 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "Brent Central: The 2010 general election",
  18. ^ Cathcart, Brian (13 December 2007). "People of 2007". New Statesman (London). Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  19. ^ Verkalk, Robert (31 May 2008). "Guantanamo Briton will face US military court". The Independent (London). Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  20. ^ a b "Sarah Teather: Electoral history and profile". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  21. ^ Hencke, David; Glover, Julian (7 January 2006). "Kennedy's days numbered as party erupts in open revolt". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  22. ^ Tempest, Matthew (9 January 2006). "Ashdown backs Campbell for leadership". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Russell, Ben (9 January 2006). "Leadership contenders square up to battle over Lib Dems' top job". The Independent (London). Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "Teather promoted to education job". BBC News. 8 March 2006. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "Gove saved schools in deputy's back yard", The Sunday Times (London), 12 September 2010, p. 13.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Teather reveals concerns over benefits cap". Children & Young People Now. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  28. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates". UK Parliament. 1 February 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  29. ^ "David Cameron Defends Sarah Teather After Being Asked Why She Was Still A Minister". Huffington Post. 8 February 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  30. ^ Chapman, James (8 February 2012). "Lib Dem children's minister faces calls for the sack after she fails to back welfare reforms". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  31. ^ "Minister and audience clash over EMA". BBC News. 1 April 2011. 
  32. ^ a b Helm, Toby (17 November 2012). "Benefit cap is immoral and divisive, says top Liberal Democrat". The Observer (London). Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  33. ^ Behr, Rafael (22 November 2012). "A very modest Lib Dem rebellion on the benefits cap". New Statesman (London). Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  34. ^ "Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people". The Children's Society. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  35. ^ Rowena Mason, "Sarah Teather votes against gay marriage despite website declaring 'pride' in policy", The Telegraph, 6 February 2013.
  36. ^ [2] Article on Political Record Breakers in Parliament by Alistair Lamyman, published 28 January 2014.
  37. ^ "Frank Dobson: Labour needs to be 'knocking lumps off' this government". The Guardian. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ Prince, Rosa (13 February 2015). "Why I’m standing down from Parliament: Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "Sarah Teather MP to join Jesuit Refugee Service". Catholic Herald. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Paul Daisley
Member of Parliament for Brent East
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Brent Central
Succeeded by
Dawn Butler
Preceded by
David Lammy
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Jo Swinson
Political offices
Preceded by
Dawn Primarolo
Minister of State for Children and Families
Succeeded by
Liz Truss
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