Meet the new ministers

Prime Minister David Cameron’s autumn reshuffle has ushered in an interesting new crop of ministers and a reorganisation of portfolios at the Foreign Office. Here Embassy introduces you to the new faces in King Charles Street and the regions for which they are responsible

Baroness Warsi
(Subcontinent, Central Asia)

The most high-profile newcomer is the trailblazing Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi, the first-ever Muslim woman in the Cabinet and the first female chair of the Conservative Party. As Senior Minister of State, she has taken over FCO business in the House of Lords from Lord (David) Howell.

The daughter of an immigrant Pakistani mill worker and bus driver who later rose to become a successful businessman in the north of England, Baroness Warsi started her career as a lawyer before being raised to a life peer.

Fluent in Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati, these will be an asset as Baroness Warsi takes over responsibility for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Central Asia and the UN.

But diplomats be warned: the Baroness has a reputation for plain speaking and her outspoken remarks on religion, race and international affairs have occasionally got her into hot water in the past.

Rt Hon Hugo Swire
(East Asia, India, Nepal, Latin America, Pacific, Falklands)

The urbane Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP takes over as “emerging powers minister” following Jeremy Browne’s promotion to a ministerial role at the Home Office.

The Old Etonian MP for East Devon will be responsible for the Far East, Southeast Asia, India, Nepal and Latin America, Australasia and the Pacific.

Previously a minister of state in the Northern Ireland Office and Shadow Secretary for culture, media and sport (2005-07), the new FCO Minister of State has some other interesting attributes which could help – and possibly hinder – his work.

He is connected to the Swire Hong Kong shipping dynasty which will no doubt stand him in good stead with trade diplomacy in East Asia. But his ministerial responsibilities include the tricky Falklands dossier and being son-in-law of Sir John Nott, who was Secretary of State for Defence during the Falklands War, may be less helpful when dealing with Argentina.

An interesting claim to fame is his late brother-in-law, Joe Strummer of the punk band The Clash. Another musical brother-in-law is Julian Nott who composed the iconic theme tune to the Wallace & Gromit animated series and films.

And diplomatic fans of the Rolling Stones will be intrigued to discover that he dated (briefly) Jerry Hall, the former supermodel wife of Mick Jagger and currently blonde belle of the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom.

He also has long-standing connections to the London diplomatic community through his mother, Philippa (the Dowager Marchioness Townshend), a popular diplomatic social editor in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mark Simmonds MP
(Africa, Caribbean, Overseas Territories, Consular)

Henry Bellingham MP, the Minister for Africa who was universally popular among African heads of mission, has stepped aside for Mark Simmonds, MP for Boston and Skegness and formerly the PPS to Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A property surveyor before his political career, he was active on the Conservative front benches during opposition. Mr Simmonds has held several shadow ministerial portfolios, many with an international slant, including PPS to the Shadow Foreign Secretary (2002-03), Shadow Minister for Education (2003-04), Shadow Foreign Office Minister (2004 -05), Shadow Minister for International Development (2005 – 07) and Shadow Minister for Health (2007-10).