Although he no longer actively works in politics, Steve Webb was, for almost two decades, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. He served two constituencies, Northavon and Thornbury and Yate, during his tenure in the Commons, and was a Minister of State in David Cameron’s coalition government, acting as Iain Duncan-Smith’s second-in-command in the Department for Work and Pensions.
Unlike many Members of Parliament, Steve attended a comprehensive school: Dartmouth High School, in Birmingham, where he grew up. He studied PPE at Hertford College, Oxford before securing roles at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University of Bath. In 1997 Steve took his first steps into politics when he was selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Northavon in Gloucestershire.
Northavon had been a Conservative stronghold since its establishment as a constituency in 1983, yet Steve managed to oust incumbent John Cope by a margin of over 2,000 votes. The result was representative of trends nationwide, as the Conservatives were finally removed from power and the Lib Dems had their most successful election to date.
Steve would win another two contests in Northavon, increasing his majority in the 2001 and 2005 elections. In the meantime, he began to gain prominence in his political party, as leader Charles Kennedy appointed him as lead spokesperson on Work and Pensions in 2001, and then Health in 2005.
In 2009, after stints shadowing the Environment and Energy portfolios, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg once again appointed Steve Webb to Work and Pensions spokesman.
In 2010, a redrawing of the UK’s political constituencies saw Steve Webb’s Northavon ward split into two: Thornbury and Yate and Filton and Bradley Stoke. In a landmark election for the Liberal Democrats, Steve was elected to the former with over 50% of the vote, as Nick Clegg secured his party a voice in government.
Steve Webb was appointed Minister of State for Work and Pensions in David Cameron’s ‘Condem’ coalition government, with former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith heading up the ministry. During his tenure in the role, Steve was behind a number of major changes to the pensions system, including pushing through mandatory auto-enrollment schemes. However, in 2014, he courted controversy when he said he was ‘relaxed if pensioners wanted to spend their savings on a Lamborghini‘. This was after the government had made it easier for people to access their pensions before the mandatory retirement age.
Steve’s time in government came to an end in 2015, when the Lib Dems were almost totally wiped out as a parliamentary force. Widely seen as a voter response to unkept promises, Nick Clegg’s party lost all but eight of their seats, with Webb losing out to Conservative Luke Hall.
Since retiring from active politics, Webb has taken on a role as director of policy and external communications at Royal London. He was awarded a knighthood in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list, as recognition for his achievements in political and public service.