Who is the government chief whip Mark Spencer?

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: DW Images/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: DW Images/Rex/Shutterstock

Despite hitting the headlines in recent weeks, when Mark Spencer was appointed as Boris Johnson’s chief whip in 2019 he was described as a relative unknown outside Westminster. The website ConservativeHome said he had “contrived to remain one of the least-known major players” in SW1.

The exception may have been in his constituency of Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, where his family have lived for four generations. Before his election as an MP in 2010, Spencer joined the family farm business after qualifying at Shuttleworth Agricultural College in Bedfordshire.

Spencer, who celebrated his 52nd birthday last week, is married with two children and attended local comprehensive schools in the village of Calverton.

A member of various select committees, he was appointed as parliamentary private secretary to Liz Truss when she was secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, before joining the whips’ office.

In 2015 Spencer was accused by the Spectator of “rigid tribalism” after appearing to defend a benefits system that sanctioned a jobseeker with learning disabilities because he was four minutes late for a jobcentre appointment. In January 2016 he was one of 72 MPs who were themselves landlords who voted against proposed new rules explicitly requiring rental properties to be “fit for human habitation”.

Despite supporting the remain campaign in the EU referendum, Spencer’s promotion to chief whip – a role he described at the time to Farmers Weekly as the “grease that makes parliament work” – was met with broad approval from different wings of the parliamentary party.

Heralding his appointment, the former Tory MP Nick Boles said Spencer was “one of the nicest people in the Conservative parliamentary party … firm, fair, with his feet planted firmly on the ground.” He also said Spencer “makes great pies”, in reference to his family’s farm shop, which boasts of selling three kinds of pork pies – a culinary reference more recently seen as a byword for alleged plots against Spencer’s boss.