FE sector leader to run as a Brexit Party candidate

The chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies has become the Brexit Party candidate for the Hastings and Rye MP seat.

Tom Bewick, a former Labour councillor, will contest work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd for the constituency at the next general election.

He told FE Week his professional duties as leader of FAB will not be impacted by his campaign, and promised his political opinions will be kept separate from his work at the body that represents hundreds of awarding organisations across England.

We support Tom Bewick in pursuing his long-standing political beliefs by standing for Parliament

The FAB board said it “accepts that employees have a right to seek public office and stand in elections”, after finding out about Bewick’s decision via an online article published yesterday.

“This is provided that the work that our staff undertake for political parties is kept separate from their professional duties and carried out in their own time,” the board’s statement added.

“We support Tom Bewick in pursuing his long-standing political beliefs by standing for Parliament.

“FAB is a non-political organisation and we are assured that Tom will continue to be a strong advocate for the issues that are put forward by the members of the Federation; and we do not believe that his political viewpoints will have any impact on his proven professionalism in this area; or on his day-to-day role and responsibilities as chief executive of FAB.”

Bewick, who became FAB chief executive in March 2018, said thousands of ordinary people stand for elections every year and he will “be able to cover those two responsibilities”.

“I think I have demonstrated throughout my career when I’ve held down multiple roles and a professional job, and a political career, I don’t think it’s ever been raised I’m not focused on the day job,” he told FE Week.

“People have all sorts of hobbies and do other things with their spare time, alas my spare time has been taken up with campaigning, but in terms of my day to day professional role, that will continue.

“I will be a strong advocate for the awarding and assessment industry and importantly, I have a 25 year record and career in education and skills, so I will continue as an expert in that field.”

Bewick chaired the Brighton and Hove city council’s education committee for the Labour Party before resigning from the party in May because he was “absolutely appalled by the antisemitism in the party”.

He was also unhappy with Labour’s position on Brexit, especially as Hastings voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

Explaining the reason behind his move to the Brexit Party, Bewick said: “I have had longstanding views about the importance of the UK leaving the European Union. I do believe Britain’s best days lie ahead as an independent, self-governing nation.

“And obviously we live in a period where, three years on from the referendum result, it hasn’t been delivered by parliament and that obvious frustration has come out in the sense that the Brexit Party has come into being. It’s a coalition of patriots across the political spectrum, from left and right.”

Bewick will continue to hold his position at FAB during his campaign, but if he is elected to parliament he will have to resign.

“My contract does not preclude me from standing for public office or being in an elected position,” he said.

“As with all organisations, you have to keep your professional role different from your political role, but I think you can see from my track record that I do that quite scrupulously and the board appreciates that and knows that.”

Bewick is co-founder of Franklin Apprenticeships in the US, and founded the Transatlantic Apprenticeship Exchange Forum in 2015 to promote opportunities for UK training providers in the US.

He led the International Skills Standards Organisation Ltd for four years, from 2011 to 2015, and prior to that was chief executive of Enterprise UK, a former government quango, from 2010 to 2011.

Other government roles include adviser to the minister for adult skills in the early 2000s.