Robert Edward Jenrick (born 9 January 1982) is a British Conservative Party politician serving as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2019. He has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Newark since 2014.
He was made Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury on 9 January 2018, before which he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Michael Gove as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary. From 2018 to 2019, he was the youngest Minister in the Government of Prime Minister Theresa May. Jenrick was appointed Communities Secretary by Boris Johnson in July 2019.
Early life and education
Jenrick was born in Wolverhampton in 1982. He grew up in Shropshire near the town of Ludlow, as well as in Herefordshire.
Jenrick attended Wolverhampton Grammar School before reading history at St John's College, Cambridge, graduating in 2003. He was also news editor at student newspaper Varsity in 2001. He was Thouron Fellow in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania from 2003–2004. He subsequently studied law, gaining a graduate diploma in law from The College of Law in 2005 and completing a legal practice course at BPP Law School in 2006.
Law and business career
Jenrick qualified as a solicitor in 2008 and practised corporate law with the international law firms, Skadden Arps and Sullivan & Cromwell in London and Moscow, before pursuing a business career. Immediately prior to being elected to parliament in 2014 Jenrick was a Director of Christie's, the art business.
At the general election of 2010, Jenrick contested Newcastle-under-Lyme for the Conservative Party, achieving at 9.4% one of the largest swings to the Conservatives, but falling short of the incumbent, Paul Farrelly of the Labour Party, by 1,582 votes.
In November 2013, Jenrick was selected as his party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative stronghold of Newark, where the sitting member had resigned following a cash for lobbying scandal. At a by-election held on 5 June 2014, he retained the seat with a majority of 7,403. Jenrick became the first Conservative candidate to win a by-election in Government since William Hague in Richmond in 1989 and achieved the strongest peacetime by-election result for the Conservative Party in government for over 40 years.
During the campaign, Jenrick was attacked by UKIP's candidate, Roger Helmer, for owning several properties. Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, defended Jenrick, insisting that being self-made and successful was nothing to be ashamed of. In February 2016, Channel 4 News alleged overspending in Jenrick's 2014 by-election victory. Jenrick said he was confident his election expenses had been compiled in compliance with the law. Nottinghamshire Police took no action as too much time had passed since the alleged offence.
Jenrick was re-elected in the May 2015 General Election with a majority of 18,474 or 57% of the vote, the largest majority in the history of the constituency and the largest swing of any Conservative MP in that election.
Shortly after his election in 2014, Jenrick was elected to the House of Commons Health Committee.
In February 2015, he was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Employment Minister, Esther McVey.
Following the 2017 General Election, he was appointed PPS to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.
In July 2017, he was elected by fellow MPs to be their representative on the Board of the Conservative Party.
He was appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Theresa May in her reshuffle of January 2018. He was the youngest Minister in the Government.
After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election Jenrick was appointed as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. He is the youngest member of Johnson's cabinet. His response to the national crisis with regard to housing safety following the Grenfell tragedy has been criticised as demonstrating a misunderstanding of the issue, alongside his reluctance to engage with representatives of the many thousands of British citizens whose lives remain at risk.
Jenrick was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum. However, he was one of 188 MPs to vote to leave the EU as planned on 29 March 2019, without a deal, voting against the government motion to extend the Article 50 process. Jenrick has been Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Trade & Investment and Vice Chairman of the Groups on China and France.
He has been Vice Chairman of the APPG on Cultural Protection. He led a national campaign to support the protection of historic sites in the Middle East, threatened with destruction by Islamist extremists, such as the ancient city of Palmyra, persuaded David Cameron to establish the UK's first Cultural Protection Fund and to change the law to tackle the illicit trade in antiquities, the Cultural Protection Act.
He is credited with saving the historic Grade I listed house Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham, when he persuaded the Chancellor Philip Hammond to intervene at the eleventh hour and provide the funds needed to buy the property. He was subsequently described by the charity SAVE to be Parliament's Greatest Champion of Heritage.
In his constituency, Jenrick has campaigned for improvements in education and social mobility. He developed and campaigned for the establishment of a free school in Newark, The Suthers School which was granted as the last act of Prime Minister David Cameron. He serves as a governor of the school, which opened in September 2017. He has campaigned for infrastructure investments in and around Newark, including the proposed Newark A46 Northern By-Pass.
Jenrick is a member of the Parliamentary Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) group. In June 2019, he represented the government at the Israel-Palestine peace initiative, led by Jared Kushner.
In July 2019, he said: "I want tackling antisemitism and ensuring that the Jewish community feels protected and respected to be one of my priorities as secretary of state", adding about his visit to Auschwitz concentration camp, "It had a huge impact on me and in particular because my wife is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from modern day Poland and the Ukraine." In September 2019, he said: "I will use my position as Secretary of State to write to all universities and local authorities to insist that they adopt the IHRA definition at the earliest opportunity...and use it when considering matters such as disciplinary procedures. Failure to act in this regard is unacceptable."
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Jenrick assumed office as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in July 2019. His response to the national crisis with regard to housing safety following the Grenfell tragedy has been criticised as demonstrating a misunderstanding of the issue, alongside his reluctance to engage with representatives of the many thousands of British citizens whose lives remain at risk. His approach thus far, including "naming and shaming" has been seen as lacking robustness and ineffective. Jenrick has failed to deliver on promises and has not taken any concrete action. There have been eight significant fires since Grenfell, including the Bolton Cube. Thousands of affected residents continue to face life changing financial burdens and their lives remain at risk. This stands in contrast to the decisive and effective measures put in place by the Australian Government and their commitment to keep their citizens safe. In February 2020 a survey of leaseholders from 117 housing developments by the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, a charity that supports leaseholders, 90 per cent of respondents said the government’s response to the ‘cladding crisis’ had been “no help at all.”
Coronavirus lockdown hypocrisy
In April 2020, despite Jenrick repeatedly urging the public at televised press briefings to stay at home during the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, it was claimed on the front page of the Daily Mail dated 10 April 2020 that he had twice flouted government restrictions after they were announced first by travelling 150 miles from London to a second home in Herefordshire, Eye Manor, where he was now living with his family, and then by travelling 40 miles to see his parents near Ludlow, Shropshire. He was accused of hypocrisy. Sources close to the minister defended the latter trip by saying that he was delivering food and medication, and did not enter the house. The visit came after Jenrick appealed for people not to visit their family on Mother’s Day. He had previously written an article for the Mail on Sunday, where Jenrick argued that rather than relatives travelling, local communities should help out.
The article about Jenrick on Wikipedia was one of a number edited in May 2015 by computers owned by Parliament in what The Daily Telegraph described as "a deliberate attempt to hide embarrassing information from the electorate."
In January 2020, Jenrick spoke at the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary reception and told the audience that he would "look forward to the day" when Britain's embassy in Israel will be "moved to Jerusalem", adding that "as Housing Secretary I don't like land-banking. I want us to build that embassy". The British government had not indicated it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the US did in 2018.
Jenrick is married to Michal Berkner, an Israeli-born corporate lawyer. They have three daughters, whom they are bringing up in the Jewish faith. They have visited Israel as a family and Jenrick has said his connection to the Jewish community forms "a very important and integral part of my life".
Jenrick owns two, £2m homes in London, one of which is a £2.5m townhouse less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament and also purchased Eye Manor, a Grade I listed building in Herefordshire for £1.1 million in 2009. He also rents a £2,000-a-month property in his Newark constituency - which he bills to the taxpayer.