UK's Alicia Kearns wins influential foreign affairs post

Formidable Conservative MP becomes first woman to chair the foreign affairs committee

Alicia Kearns, who has been elected by MPs as the new chairwoman of Britain's influential foreign affairs committee. Photo: Alicia Kearns
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MPs have elected an outspoken and formidable colleague to become the influential chairwoman of Britain’s foreign affairs committee.

The Conservative backbencher Alicia Kearns will probably strongly challenge the government on its foreign policy decisions.

Ms Kearns also brings important overseas experiences to the role having served as the military and civilian liaison for the Global Coalition Against Daesh and was a member of Whitehall's counter-ISIS propganda unit covering Syria and Iraq.

While she has been an MP for just three years, Ms Kearns has made an impact by being outspoken on a range of issues, including Afghanistan and the Balkans.

She also came to prominence as the leader of the so-called Pork Pie plot – she represents Melton Mowbray, the home to the savoury pie – in which she led a number of MPs disgruntled over former prime minister Boris Johnson’s behaviour during the Partygate scandal.

She subsequently dropped out of contention for a senior post in Mr Johnson’s government after she was sacked last year as a parliamentary private secretary, the first rung on the ministerial ladder.

She is the first woman to chair the foreign affairs committee, beating senior colleagues Liam Fox and Iain Duncan Smith in the poll where MPs from all parties voted.

Ms Kearns, 34, was also backed by the highly respected Labour veteran MP Harriet Harman and her moderate and democratic style appealed to other opposition MPs who voted.

“Having spent almost a decade at the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Nato, I’ve driven Foreign Affairs Committee work on our most pressing foreign policy challenges: hostile states and countering terrorist organizations,” she told the Politico news outlet before her election. “As chair, I will focus on building our resilience, atrocity prevention and defending the rules-based order.”

As chairwoman she will also lead questioning of senior political figures, including the foreign secretary and occasionally the prime minister during committee hearings.

She will also direct probes into Britain’s foreign policy and will probably focus on China, Russia, East Europe and the Middle East.

She replaces Tom Tugendhat who, after running in the Tory leadership contest, was made security minister in Liz Truss’ Cabinet.

She led the China Research Group, which takes a hardline approach to Beijing and has also served for two years on the committee.

The mother of two children graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in social and political sciences in 2009.

Updated: October 14, 2022, 7:04 AM