Conor Burns

Conor Burns[1] (born 24 September 1972) is a British Conservative Party politician and Minister of State for International Trade. He is a former public relations executive. He was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bournemouth West at the 2010 general election . He was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2012, before resigning from the Government due to his opposition to the Lords Reform Bill. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary until his resignation on 9 July 2018, following the resignation of his senior colleague Boris Johnson.[2] Following Johnson's appointment as Prime Minister, Burns was made Minister of State for International Trade.

Conor Burns

Minister of State for International Trade
Assumed office
25 July 2019
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byGeorge Hollingbery
Member of Parliament
for Bournemouth West
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byJohn Butterfill
Majority10,150 (22.1%)
Personal details
Born (1972-09-24) 24 September 1972
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Political partyConservative
ResidenceWestbourne, Dorset, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Southampton

Early life and career

Burns was born on 24 September 1972 in Belfast before moving with his family to Hertfordshire in 1980.[3] He was privately educated at St Columba's College, St Albans and read Modern History and Politics at the University of Southampton.[3] At Southampton he was chairman of the University's Conservative Association, 1992–93 and Chairman of Wessex Area Conservatives, 1993–94.[4]

He held a number of jobs in the communications and finance sectors,[3] most recently as an associate director of the public affairs company PLMR.[5] Prior to that, he was Director of the Policy Research Centre for Business Ltd; Company Secretary for DeHavilland Global Knowledge Distribution plc[6] and Manager for Zurich Advice Network.[7]

Political career

Burns stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the Peartree ward of Southampton City Council in 1994 and the Woolston ward in 1995.[8] He again stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the Peartree ward of Southampton City Council in 1996, before being elected in the St. Lukes ward in 1999. He was Conservative Group leader from 2001. However, in May 2002, the whole Council was up for re-election and Burns came off the Council after being defeated in Bassett ward.[9]

Burns stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative Party candidate for Eastleigh in the 2001 general election, coming second with 34.3% of the vote. Burns was an unsuccessful candidate at the Hedge End Town Council elections in Southampton in 2005. He stood again as the Conservative Party candidate for Eastleigh at the 2005 general election, but was defeated again, finishing second with 37.5% of the vote, 568 votes behind Chris Huhne.[10]

Burns was a member of the A-List of candidates and was selected in September 2008 as the Conservative Party candidate for Bournemouth West.[11]

Burns was the vice-president of the Young Britons' Foundation, an Anglo-American conservative training and education organisation, prior to the 2010 election.[12] He went on to be awarded the Young Britons' Foundation Golden Dolphin award "for his stoic support for the Young Britons’ Foundation since its creation in 2003". The organisation was described as "a Conservative madrasa" because of its radical views, such as opposition to the NHS and support for waterboarding of prisoners, and role in training young Conservative activists.[12]

Burns was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for the Conservative held seat[13] of Bournemouth West in the 2010 general election with a majority of 5,583.[14] He was re-elected at the 2015 general election and 2017 general election.

He was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Hugo Swire, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office in 2010, before which he briefly sat on the Education select committee. By 2012, he was promoted to be PPS to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson. He resigned on 10 July 2012 to vote against the Coalition's Lords Reform Bill, of which he had been a consistent critic.[15]

He became a close acquaintance to Margaret Thatcher in the later years of her life and spoke in the House of Commons debate on 10 April 2013 following her death.[16]

Alongside his work as an MP, Burns works as a consultant for Trant Engineering Ltd earning £10,000 quarterly for 10 hours work a month.[17] He acts as a consultant for real estate developers, the Quantum Group, working 6 hours a month for a quarterly fee of £6,250.[17] In 2015, an article in Private Eye implied that Burns' opposition to Navitus Bay Windfarm and subsidies for renewables were due to his connections to the oil and gas industry through Trant Engineering.[18][19]

He is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bahrain and has written articles defending the Kingdom's human rights record.[20] He has also accepted all-expenses paid trips to the Kingdom while it was facing mass pro-democracy protests which were later repressed.[21]

In August 2017, he said his Twitter account was hacked after it sent a series of aggressive posts to Michel Barnier's account demanding how the UK's Brexit bill was legally calculated.[22]

Burns resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Foreign Minister Boris Johnson on 9 July 2018 because he wanted to speak more openly on other areas of policy.[2][23]

In October 2018, he was investigated by his party over allegations of racist remarks about travellers in a letter to his local paper.[24]

Burns has served in Parliament as a Member of the Administration Committee, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and the Education Committee.[25]

Burns was reelected in the 2019 general election.[26]

Political views

Foreign Affairs

Writing in 2008, Burns called for the international community to prepare a contingency plan for the governance of Zimbabwe after the eventual departure from office of Robert Mugabe.[27]

He was outspoken in calling on former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to grant asylum to young gay Iranian student Mehdi Kazemi.[28][29]

A friend of Captain James Philippson who died in Afghanistan,[30] Burns has been critical of the perceived failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide troops with appropriate equipment, stating that many troops "would be alive today had they had the most basic of equipment".[31]

European Union

A strong Eurosceptic, Burns has been critical of the electoral system used to choose and rank Conservative candidates to run on lists to be Members of the European Parliament[32] and the impact of UK Independence Party candidates[33] in denying victory to Conservative candidates. In the 2017 election this was not a problem for him personally as UKIP opted not to place a candidate in his constituency due to his strong Eurosceptic stance.[34]

Criticism of perceived left wing bias

In 2014 he referred the charity Oxfam to the Charity Commission stating that a tweet from the charity was "overtly political".[35]

He criticised a letter[36] from Church of England bishops urging Christians to engage with the 2015 election as "naive" and "factually wrong".[37][38]

Personal life

Burns is openly gay and stated he needed "cast iron guarantees" that religious organisations will not be forced into conducting same-sex marriages[39] before he voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.[40] Burns voted in favour of the bill at its second reading, but did not vote at its third and final reading.

A practising Roman Catholic, he has said he feels unable to take communion since Bishop Philip Egan, of the diocese in which Burns resides, stated that those politicians who voted for same-sex marriage, even with the caveats upon which Burns had insisted (i.e. "guarantees that ... churches would not ultimately be forced under human rights legislation to conduct such ceremonies”), should refrain from taking the sacrament.[41][42]


  1. "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8741.
  2. "Conor Burns MP on Twitter".
  3. "Conor Burns profile". The Conservative Party. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. "Vote 2001 Candidates". BBC News.
  7. Profile Archived 5 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 18 May 2015.
  8. "Southampton Council Election Results 1973-1995" (PDF). Plymouth University. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  9. "Southampton Council Election Results 1996-2012" (PDF). Plymouth University. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  10. "Eastleigh". London, UK: Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  11. Profile,; accessed 8 May 2015.
  12. Robert Booth (5 May 2010). "David Cameron accused of being dishonest over links with 'Conservative madrasa'". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  13. "Majority Sorted Seats". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  14. "Bournemouth West". BBC News. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  15. "Lords reform: Government abandons crucial vote amid likely defeat". BBC News. 10 July 2012.
  16. Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour "Margaret Thatcher debate reopens raw wounds among Tory veterans", The Guardian, 10 April 2013.
  17. "Conor Burns MP, Bournemouth West - TheyWorkForYou". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  18. "MP Conor Burns responds to "mischievous" article about Navitus bias". Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  19. "What does MP Conor Burns do for £333 an hour?". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  20. "Conor Burns MP: Now is not the time to turn our backs on Bahrain". Conservative Home. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  21. "Bournemouth MP Conor Burns defends trip to Bahrain (From Bournemouth Echo)". Bournemouth Echo. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  22. "Tory MP Conor Burns' 'hacked' tweets demand Brexit bill 'facts'". Sky News.
  23. "Conor Burns MP on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  24. Martin, Andy (8 October 2018). "Conor Burns investigated over traveller comments". Bournemouth Daily Echo. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  25. "Parliamentary Profile". Parliament. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  26. "Bournemouth West parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  27. Burns on post-Mugabe Zimbabwe,; accessed 18 May 2015
  28. Burns on Mehdi Kazemi asylum,; accessed 18 May 2015.
  29. Burns on Mehdi Kazemi,; accessed 18 May 2015.
  30. "MoD criticised for soldier deaths". BBC News. 15 February 2008.
  31. Burns on MoD failures,; accessed 18 May 2015.
  32. Burns critical of electoral system used to elect Members of the European Parliament, Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  33. Burns on UKIP, Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  34. Frampton, Will (24 April 2017). "UKIP will not challenge Bournemouth's Brexit-backing MP". Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  35. "MP wants watchdog to probe 'overtly political' Oxfam campaign". 10 June 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  36. Church of England on 2015 general elections,; accessed 18 May 2015.
  37. "Tories Hit Back At 'Left-Wing' Bishops' Letter". 18 February 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  38. "Is The Bishops' Letter Unfair 'Tory Bashing'?". 18 February 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  39. "Gay Ulster born MP Conor Burns not for same sex marriage". News Letter. Belfast. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  40. Conor Burns [@conorburns_mp] (5 February 2013). "@Dekay1974 I voted for the Bill" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  41. Bingham, John (28 March 2014). "Gay marriage MP told he has excommunicated himself for voting for same-sex weddings". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  42. Macintyre, James; Frymann Rouch, Abigail (21 March 2014). "Bishop Egan under fire over plans to deny communion to dissenting MPs". The Tablet. London. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Butterfill
Member of Parliament for Bournemouth West
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