Steve Bassam, Baron Bassam of Brighton

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The Lord Bassam of Brighton
Official portrait of Lord Bassam of Brighton crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2018
Shadow Spokesman for Sport, International Trade, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Assumed office
15 April 2020
LeaderKeir Starmer
Shadow Spokesman for Further and Higher Education
Assumed office
25 March 2019
Former offices 1999-2018
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Keir Starmer
Opposition Chief Whip of the House of Lords
In office
11 May 2010 – 24 January 2018
LeaderHarman (Acting), Miliband, Corbyn
Preceded byThe Baroness Anelay of St John's
Succeeded byThe Lord McAvoy
Chief Whip of the House of Lords
Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms
In office
3 October 2008 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byThe Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Succeeded byThe Baroness Anelay of St John's
Government Whip
In office
7 June 2001 – 5 October 2008
Prime MinisterBlair, Brown
Preceded byThe Baroness Amos
Succeeded byThe Lord Tunnicliffe
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs
In office
29 July 1999 – 7 June 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byKate Hoey
Succeeded byBeverley Hughes
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
18 November 1997
Life Peerage
Personal details
John Steven Bassam

(1953-06-11) 11 June 1953 (age 69)
Great Bentley, England, UK
Political partyLabour and Co-operative
Alma materUniversity of Sussex
University of Kent

John Steven Bassam, Baron Bassam of Brighton, PC (born 11 June 1953) is a British Labour and Co-operative politician and a member of the House of Lords.


Bassam grew up on a council estate in Great Bentley, Essex and went to the local boys secondary modern school in Pathfield Road, now Clacton Coastal Academy in Clacton-on-Sea. He then went to study at the universities of Sussex and Kent, where he received a Master's in social work. Bassam then began his career as a social worker at Camden London Borough Council. He moved on to other roles in local government, serving as an assistant secretary at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, later the Local Government Association.[1]

Bassam was also a squatter and a committed far left anarchist during his early years in Brighton, where he founded a squatters union which campaigned for the rights of squatters to occupy empty properties and improve the conditions of the squats.[2]

In January 1976, Bassam led the opposition to the eviction of a family from a house on West Hill Road, saying "We will gladly vacate the premises if we are assured that the family at the top of the housing list is given the house to live in."[3]

Interviewed in 2013, he claimed that he would not support anyone who occupies someone else's home.[4]

Political career[edit]

Bassam became involved in local politics and was elected a Brighton councillor. He rose to become Leader of Brighton, then Brighton and Hove Council, from 1987 until 1999. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in Brighton Kemptown at the 1987 general election against the Conservative MP Andrew Bowden.

On 3 November 1997, he was created a life peer as Baron Bassam of Brighton, of Brighton in the County of East Sussex,[5] and was introduced in the House of Lords on 18 November,[6] sitting on the Labour benches.

Bassam was promoted to the frontbenches as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office in 1999. In 2001, he was appointed a Lord-in-waiting (Government whip in the Lords). He served in that role and as Government spokesman for the Home Office until 2008. During the same period he served at various times as Government spokesman for a number of other departments: Lord Chancellor's Department 2001–04, Cabinet Office 2001–07, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (subsequently Communities and Local Government) 2002–04, 2005–07, 2008, Attorney General's Office 2005–08, Transport 2007–08, Culture, Media and Sport 2008.

In 2008, Gordon Brown promoted him to the role of Labour Chief Whip, and therefore Government Chief Whip and Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms.[7] On 8 July 2009 he was made a Privy Councillor.[8] When Labour moved into Opposition in 2010, he became Opposition Chief Whip.

In December 2011 and January 2012, Bassam engaged in a vigorous debate on Twitter with Brighton and Hove Greens about budget cuts by the council's Green administration.[9]

2017 expenses scandal[edit]

In December 2017 he was accused of over-claiming expenses. He agreed to stand down as Labour's Chief Whip in the House of Lords following the appointment of a successor. He also referred himself to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards over the accusations.[10][11]

The Commissioner found that Bassam had claimed both the Lords allowance and the Lords Office Holders Allowance for travel costs, but had done so mistakenly rather than dishonestly. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct asked that Bassam repay £15,737 in over-claimed travel allowance and write a letter of apology to the Committee.[12] Bassam stated he would resign as chief whip once a replacement had been elected.[13]


  1. ^ "Bassam elevated to working peerage". Local Government Chronicle. 7 August 1997. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Hove MP calls for end to 'squatter rights'". BBC News. 19 September 2010. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  3. ^ d'Enno, Douglas (2007). Brighton crime and vice, 1800-2000. Grub Street Publishers. ISBN 9781783408108.
  4. ^ Bond, Daniel; Waugh, Paul (17 October 2013). "Playing at Lords". Archived from the original on 6 December 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  5. ^ "No. 54942". The London Gazette. 10 November 1997. p. 12601.
  6. ^ House of Lords Journal, vol. 231, Tuesday 18 November 1997. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Lord Bassam of Brighton". House of Lords Information Office. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Privy Counsellors: Orders Approved at the Privy Council Held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 8th July 2009". Privy Council Office. Archived from the original on 3 November 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Bassam v Greens". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  10. ^ Craig, Jon (7 December 2017). "Expenses scandal peer to quit top Labour job". Sky News. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  11. ^ Grew, Tony (3 December 2017). "Labour chief whip Lord Bassam is shamed into repaying expenses". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Committee publishes report into the conduct of Lord Bassam". House of Lords. UK Parliament. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  13. ^ Kentish, Benjamin (6 December 2017). "Lord Bassam resigns: Labour's Lords chief whip stands down after expenses row". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2019.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Chief Whip of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms
Preceded by Shadow Chief Whip of the House of Lords
Party political offices
Preceded by Labour Chief Whip of the House of Lords
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by Gentlemen
Baron Bassam of Brighton
Followed by
The Lord Simpson of Dunkeld