WESTMINSTER EYE

Nigel Adams – leapfrogging backwards

Chris McAndrew / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Share this article

On the surface there is little to connect the son of a school caretaker from Goole with an old Etonian and former president of the Oxford Union. Yet Nigel Adams is one of the loyal band of lickspittles MPs who have stuck close to the prime minister through thick and thin. Johnson I assume, regards Adams as one of his “disciplined and deluded collection of stooges” of the sort he once said every politician needed.

Anyway, whatever the appeal, it has got Nigel, MP for Selby and Ainsty since 2010, a nice little earner at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he is now minister of state.

In February 2016 he had a web page: Why I believe we would be better off outside the EU, which has now been inexplicably removed (but see webarchive). Perhaps it means he’s had a change of heart, or maybe he’s embarrassed about it now. In it, he optimistically told us that “We have the fifth largest economy in the world and I expect our economy will leapfrog over Germany and Japan to rise up the league table even further”.  

That leapfrogging should therefore put us into third place behind the USA and China, but as we can see, Statistics Times is unfortunately forecasting that we will instead slip behind India and France to seventh this year. I assume Adams’ excuse is, perhaps, that we are dropping back in order to take a run at it?  

Don’t forget, until about 1890 we occupied the number one spot, so the direction of travel is pretty clear – or should be, even to Nigel Adams.

He and fellow Tory MP, Andrew Percy, spent money (potentially some of the £15,000 he received from the former Russian arms dealer Alexander Temerko in January 2016) on a full page spread in the Selby Times on 23 June urging their constituents to vote for Brexit.

After parliament reassembled in September 2016 he asked the newly installed Brexit Secretary David Davis if he had “seen any evidence of contingency planning across Whitehall, prior to the referendum, relating to the possibility that the British public might vote to leave the EU”. Don’t laugh, I’m not making this up.

Davis told him breezily “it was rather difficult to find documents” as if he’d been frantically opening and closing empty filing cabinets all weekend searching for a folder marked “Brexit plan”. The answer as we now realise, was clearly no.

Eventually, he managed to get on the junior ministerial ladder at the Welsh Office which allowed him to resign in April 2019 when Theresa May announced she was entering into talks with Corbyn to ‘get Brexit done’. His resignation letter cites the UK having to remain in the customs union under May’s deal. I assume his quitting was driven by fears Temerko might ask for the £33,800 he had donated by then to be returned.

Resigning by Tweet at 9:36 on Wednesday April 3, he rushed to PMQs and was able to ask Mrs May a question. The House fell silent as the former junior minister rose to his feet. They waited, what momentous question would he ask?

“Can I urge my right hon. friend the prime minister, on behalf of all the people of Selby, to put her weight behind the campaign for step-free access for Selby railway station?” 

What? Step-free access? Again, I am not making this up. It’s obvious his time at the Welsh Office affected his judgment, not to mention his mind. It seemed he expected the PM to grab a bag of dry concrete mix and head up the A1 that afternoon to construct a ramp. Oh well at least it cemented his reputation for asking inane questions.

Adams was named and shamed in June 2017 as one of 72 MPs who voted against a Labour amendment to the Housing and Planning Act to force landlords to make homes “fit for human habitation” – each of these MPs were themselves landlords who derived a rental income. Adams owned three properties at the time; goodness only knows what they were like.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate in November 2015 about UK Musicians’ performing rights, Adams said  discussions between the EU and the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presented an opportunity to “eliminate barriers to trade”. And as late as 6 June 2016 he was asking about the “costs, time taken and other difficulties related to the visa process for UK musicians performing in the US”.

We can only presume he was concerned there were too few of them – difficulties that is, since he appeared to want them extending to musicians performing in Europe. Because on 23 June 2016 he was urging everybody to vote to leave the EU and erect barriers to trade with what he has described as “the biggest music market in the world”.


More Westminster Eye articles from Juvenal:


The Musicians Union now says it’s “very difficult to predict what will happen after the transition period. The government will either secure a deal, which may include some regulations on movement (visas, carnets etc) or it may extend the transition period, or it may decide to leave the transition period with no deal agreed”. A petition demanding a ‘musicians’ passport’ has been signed by over 80,000 people.

A government website now advises creative industry businesses to check the entry requirements for the country you’re visiting. The French business advice page is in French and the Belgian one says you might want to think about appointing an English-speaking lawyer. Some countries will require visas, particularly if the tour is more than 90 days. With friends like Nigel who needs enemies?

And he seemed to be labouring under the impression that the EU would allow Britain to cherry-pick the best bits of its former membership benefits, since by February 2017 Adams was asking about the UK “continuing to access the Digital Single Market” and also about protecting the “territoriality of copyright” after we leave the EU.

In February 2020 someone, I can’t imagine who (from a House of Commons computer IP address), edited Nigel’s Wikipedia page, deleting a paragraph about him voting against plain cigarette packaging after previously accepting money from Japan Tobacco International. But he needn’t have worried, some admirer has restored it for him.

Adams by the way is another MP who continues to employ his wife Claire as part-time office manager. Nothing like keeping it in the family is there?


Our MPs have a public duty to do the right thing by their constituents, our region and our country without fear or favour even if this may mean going against the party line. This is the basis of a properly functioning democracy and in this time of national crisis it’s more important than ever that our representatives in Parliament are held to account. Yorkshire Bylines is determined to shine a light on the activities of our elected MPs – and what they’re doing in our name.


Can you help us reach more readers?