James Cleverly: Who is the new Foreign Secretary?

·3-min read
James Cleverly (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
James Cleverly (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

An old ally of Boris Johnson and staunch backer of Liz Truss, James Cleverly was widely considered a shoo-in for a top role at the new prime minister’s side.

It is a big promotion for the MP for Braintree, who was shuffled to the position of Education Secretary – making him the third person in that role in 48 hours – as Mr Johnson’s premiership collapsed around him in July.

Asked by the PA news agency before the Tory leadership result if he would take the foreign secretary job, should it be offered by Ms Truss, he replied simply: “Who wouldn’t accept it?”

It is little surprise then, that he has taken his place around the Cabinet table in one of the country’s most senior political roles.

It is not Mr Cleverly’s first stint in the Foreign Office. He worked as a minister in the department when it was led by Ms Truss, and under Dominic Raab before that.

He has also been co-chairman of the Tory party and held ministerial positions in the Cabinet Office and now-defunct department for exiting the European Union.

According to his website, Mr Cleverly, the son of a midwife and a businessman, was born in Lewisham Hospital, where his mother worked, in south-east London.

He spent much of his childhood with family in Chelmsford, Essex, and joined the Army when he left school.

But his ambition hit the rocks when injury struck, and he returned to education to get a business degree.

He also signed up for the Territorial Army, where he has served for about 20 years.

Mr Cleverly, married to Susie and a father of two, had a career in magazine and digital publishing, and says he worked on a number of “market-leading titles” before setting up his own company.

He ventured into the world of politics, where he has long been an ally of the former PM, with an unsuccessful bid to serve on Lewisham council in 2002.

He also stood for the Lewisham East parliamentary seat in 2005, but lost out to Labour.

Mr Cleverly was elected to the London Assembly as the member for Bexley and Bromley in 2008 and later replaced Mr Johnson as chairman of the London Waste and Recycling Board.

In 2012, the former PM, then mayor of London, made him chairman of the London Fire Authority.

Mr Cleverly stepped down from that role in 2015 after being selected to run for Parliament at the next general election, and secured his Braintree seat for the first time that year.

The newly-promoted Cabinet minister has been largely uncontroversial during his time in Government, although it is worth noting he has only served as a secretary of state since the summer.

He joined the Tory leadership race to replace Theresa May in 2019, but later pulled out, saying his fellow MPs were not comfortable with the idea of picking a “relatively new” colleague.

He has been an ardent supporter of Ms Truss, introducing her to the stage at the first official hustings with Tory members in Leeds, and suggesting in the wake of her victory that the public will “warm” to her over time.

In his new role, he will help the new PM tackle a daunting in-tray, with the war in Ukraine and relations with China high on the agenda.

On her appointment to the top job, Mr Cleverly praised his ally for being a “great” foreign secretary. He will now hope to build a legacy of his own.