James Spencer Cleverly (born 4 September 1969) is a British Conservative politician and Territorial Army officer who served as Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party alongside Ben Elliot from 2019 to 2020. He has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Braintree since 2015. He was previously Member of the London Assembly for Bexley and Bromley from 2008 to 2016.
Cleverly advocated a Brexit vote in the 2016 EU membership referendum. In the second May ministry, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party from 2018 to 2019 and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from April to July 2019, following the resignation of Chris Heaton-Harris.
As of 2020 he is the Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa.
Early life and education
Cleverly was born on 4 September 1969 in Lewisham, London to James Philip and Evelyn Suna Cleverly. His father is British and worked as a surveyor and his mother worked as a midwife and is from Sierra Leone. He was privately educated at Riverston School and Colfe's School, both in Lee, London. Cleverly then trained in the army but this training was cut short due to a leg injury in 1989. He went on to gain a bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management from Thames Valley University (now the University of West London).
After graduating, he worked for the publishing company Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen (VNU), he was promoted to international sales manager in 2002. Two years later, Cleverly joined Crimson Publishing as head of sales. He then became head of digital media for Caspian Publishing in 2006. The following year, he co-founded web publishing company Point and Fire.
On 6 October 1991, Cleverly was commissioned into the Territorial Army, as a second lieutenant (on probation).  In January 1993, his commission was confirmed and he was made a substantive second lieutenant. He was promoted to lieutenant on 6 October 1993, to captain on 26 May 1998, and to major on 1 November 2003. Until 2005, he was Battery Commander of 266 (Para) Battery Royal Artillery (Volunteers). Cleverly was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 March 2015.
Early political career
Cleverly had previously stood unsuccessfully in a number of elections for the London Borough of Lewisham; including the borough council elections of 2002, a borough council by-election in 2003, for the Lewisham East seat for the UK Parliament in the 2005 general election and as the Conservative candidate for the directly elected mayor of Lewisham in 2006.
In March 2007, Cleverly was selected as the candidate for the Bexley and Bromley constituency of the London Assembly in a very tightly fought selection contest. The London Assembly election was held on 1 May with the count and declaration on the 2 May, where he received 105,162 votes (52.6% of the vote) and a majority of 75,237.
In January 2009, Cleverly was appointed as the Mayor of London's youth ambassador, a newly created role which was seen as being a replacement post for the Deputy Mayor for Young People, a post left vacant after the resignation of Ray Lewis. The creation of the role caused some controversy as it was not filled by a mayoral appointment but by a member of the assembly whose formal role is to scrutinise the Mayor. The decision was defended because of the precedent set by the appointment of Kit Malthouse as Deputy Mayor for Policing.
In February 2010, Cleverly was appointed as the Chairman of the London Waste and Recycling Board, replacing Boris Johnson who had stood down. After the defeat of Brian Coleman at the 2012 London elections he was appointed to the Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA).
In November 2010, Cleverly was re-selected to be the Conservative candidate for Bexley and Bromley in the 2012 GLA elections, going on to win the seat with 88,482 votes (once again 52.6% of the votes) and a majority of 47,768. Following his election to parliament in 2015, he did not defend his seat at the 2016 assembly election.
House of Commons
In January 2015, Cleverly was selected to be the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Braintree in the 7 May general election, after the sitting Conservative MP, Brooks Newmark stood down following controversy over sexting and the sending of obscene images online. His selection came after the initial selection process was quietly suspended by CCHQ, after the local party chose someone not on the approved candidates list and was told to ‘think again’. He was subsequently elected as the constituency's MP. He advocated a Brexit vote in the 2016 EU membership referendum.
In January 2016, the Labour Party unsuccessfully proposed an amendment in Parliament that would have required private landlords to make their homes "fit for human habitation". According to Parliament's register of interests, Cleverly was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment who personally derived an income from renting out property. The Conservative Government had responded to the amendment that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.
Cleverly was re-elected, with an increased majority (62.8% of the votes cast), as Braintree's MP on 8 June 2017 at the general election. In January 2018 he was appointed as a Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party before moving to become a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union in April. On 29 May 2019, Cleverly announced that he was standing to replace Theresa May in the Conservative Party leadership election, but announced his withdrawal from the race on 4 June 2019.
Following the appointment of Boris Johnson to the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Cleverly was appointed as the Co-Chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party, serving alongside Ben Elliot.
During the 2020 British cabinet reshuffle, Cleverly was appointed as the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, succeeding Dr Andrew Murrison. He said the move to the Foreign Office was "exciting beyond belief and gives me a chance to work in an area of government I'm really passionate about".
In August 2010 Cleverly posted a tweet in which he called Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes "a dick". The full tweet stated: "We may be coalition partners but it doesn't stop me thinking Simon Hughes is a dick." He later apologised.
In October 2013, Cleverly was criticised after he called for the abolition of the minimum wage while appearing on a discussion panel organised by the TaxPayers' Alliance and ConservativeHome.
In November 2015 Cleverly was criticised for pushing through the closure of 10 fire stations in London after the death of an elderly man in Camden following delays in the arrival of fire crews. In response, Cleverly said: "It is impossible for them to say that with certainty. I think it would be much wiser for the FBU to wait for the details of that fire investigation to come out before they start making these opportunistic allegations."
In March 2016 Cleverly was asked to step down as patron of Advocacy for All, a charity supporting disadvantaged people in South East England. The charity felt he was no longer a suitable person for the role, given that he had voted to cut ESA (the benefit paid to disabled people who are unable to work).
In October 2018 Cleverly defended Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey over potentially Islamophobic and Hinduphobic comments he had made in a pamphlet and suggested that Bailey was implying that black boys were drifting into crime as a result of learning more about faiths other than "their own Christian culture".
In August 2019, Cleverly released a video on social media misleadingly claiming that the anti-slavery campaigner and MP William Wilberforce was a "Tory", when he was in fact an Independent MP.
Cleverly has been accused of causing damage to a fellow motorist's car whilst driving on the M11 motorway. The incident occurred in August 2019, with the other driver claiming that Cleverly had been speeding whilst using his phone.
Cleverly married Susannah Sparks in 2000; the couple have two sons. Cleverly said in 2015 he did not believe in God.
Honours and decorations
Cleverly was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (TD) for 12 years' commissioned service in the Territorial Army in January 2012, as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
He was sworn into the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 2019 as part of his appointment as Minister without portfolio and Conservative Party Chairman in the Johnson ministry. This entitled him to the honorific title "The Right Honourable".