Norman Baker has been MP for Lewes since 1997 and has established a reputation as one of the most dogged and persistent Parliamentary interrogators the modern House of Commons has known.
Born in Aberdeen, Norman moved to Hornchurch in Essex in 1968 and was educated at the Royal Liberty School, Gidea Park, before taking a degree in German (and being elected three times to run one of the college bars) at Royal Holloway College, University of London.
After leaving university Norman held a variety of jobs, including a stint as a Regional Executive Director for Our Price Records, ending in 1983. He also variously ran a wine shop, taught English, was in charge of a small railway station, and was employed as an environmental campaigner.
He was elected to two local councils – Lewes District and Beddingham Parish – in 1987, and two years later was elected to East Sussex County Council to represent Telscombe. In 1991 he led the Liberal Democrats to victory on Lewes District Council, becoming that council’s first ever Lib Dem leader. He contested the Lewes Parliamentary constituency in 1992, and at his second attempt in 1997 succeeded in becoming the seat’s first non-Conservative MP since 1874, overturning a Tory majority of over 12,000.
As an MP Norman made his reputation for uncovering scandal and exposing conflicts of interest and uncomfortable facts, being one of the first to criticise the Millennium Dome project, and largely contributing to Peter Mandelson’s second resignation over his relations with the Hinduja brothers. In 1998 he won an award as “Best Newcomer MP” for his campaigning on environmental issues. In 2001 Norman was named “Inquisitor of the Year” in the Zurich/Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year awards, and in February 2002 Channel 4 named him “Opposition MP of the Year”. In 2003 he received the RSPCA’s Lord Erskine Award in recognition of his campaigning for animal welfare.
He joined the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet in October 2002 as Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, and from 2005 as Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Secretary. In May 2006 he stepped down from the Shadow Cabinet, announcing that he intended to concentrate on further investigation of unanswered questions about the death of Dr David Kelly, the scientist found dead in 2003 after being named as the possible source of a BBC story on the Government’s dossier justifying the invasion of Iraq. His book on the matter, The Strange Death of David Kelly, was published in late 2007. At around the same time, he rejoined the Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
In autumn 2007, he was appointed as the UK President of the Tibet Society and visited His Holiness The Dalai Lama in northern India.
In December 2007 Norman was promoted and appointed Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport by the new party leader, Nick Clegg. This allowed Norman to continue with his environmental interests by campaigning for better and greener public transport.
Following the 2010 General Election, Norman was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, as part of the Coalition Government, and served this position until October 2013. Working with his colleagues at the Department for Transport, some of Norman’s most significant achievements included:-
- the £600million Local Sustainable Transport Fund which has seen £1billion of sustainable transport projects announced across the country;
- doubling the cycling budget;
- helping to set the biggest rail investment programme since Victorian times;
- and electrifying 880 miles of track against just 9 under Labour.
After serving the Department for Transport for over three years, Norman was promoted and appointed to Minister of State for Crime Prevention at the Home Office in October 2013.