Where Are They Now? Former Conservative MP Nick de Bois
Nick de Bois, former MP for Enfield North and special adviser at the Department for Exiting the European Union | Alamy
Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North, 2010 – 2015
Of the five general elections in which Nick de Bois stood as the Conservative candidate in Enfield North, he won only one. “I’m stubborn,” he says. “I had a good result in 2001, heavily reduced the majority down to 2,000, and I should have done the traditional Tory thing at the time, which was cut and run and find a safe seat. But I didn’t.
“I got very fond of the people there, and eventually came through in 2010, only to part company five years later. But it was a good five years.”
De Bois says the best advice he received came soon his election from fellow Tory Charles Walker, who had a nearby office. “He came bouncing into my office and said, ‘it’s fantastic to have you as a neighbour, it’s great to have you here, you’re now in the Premier League, no one can take this away from you. This is your moment. You’ve got to enjoy this, enjoy every day’.
“And I looked at him, said ‘absolutely, Charles’. Then he said ‘because we all know you won’t be back here in five years’. Oh, okay, thanks, Charles,” de Bois says. “But in a way, it was the best lesson and I valued every day and I enjoyed every day.”
Given his “knife edge” majority, de Bois, now 62, was not surprised when he lost his seat in 2015. He describes feeling in the aftermath that his former colleagues were having a “party” in the light of the unexpected Tory majority, but that he hadn’t been invited.
Because he was “older and more financially independent,” de Bois didn’t find leaving Parliament as hard as some. “When you come out of Parliament you really find out who [your friends] are. Because the parliamentary party doesn’t fully appreciate the impact losing your seat can have on people in the holistic sense – and they don’t want to know. One of the harshest things… is that suddenly you are removed from a club of friends overnight; you lose all of that.”
I remember thinking, how the hell am I qualified to vote on something like this? Whichever way I voted, people’s lives will be put at risk
Despite standing again for Parliament in 2017, de Bois “doesn’t think” he would run for election a sixth time. “There is most certainly life after Parliament, and you’re in charge of it.”
As well as a spell as short lived-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab’s chief of staff in 2018 – “one of the most challenging 123 days” of his career, he says, “if I had to choose between the devil and being a special adviser again, I think the devil would come out on top” – his post-parliamentary career includes working as a presenter on talkRADIO, leading a government tourism review, and writing two books.
His first, Confessions of a Recovering MP, was meant to provide a clearer idea of the world of a back bencher – a role de Bois loved. His proudest work was securing tougher sentences for those involved in knife crime, which was on the rise in his constituency.
On regrets, he says that he is “genuinely not sure if I did the right thing” on voting against air strikes in Syria in 2013, with the resulting government defeat changing the course of UK foreign policy. “That sits very uneasily with me.
“I remember thinking, how the hell am I qualified to vote on something like this? Whichever way I voted, people’s lives will be put at risk.”
His debut novel, Fatal Ambition, which came out last year, is a political thriller about the machinations of ministers and MPs looking to oust a struggling prime minister. It is quite timely, de Bois admits. “It’s a happy coincidence for the book; I’m not so sure it’s a happy coincidence for the country at the moment.”
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