Bernard has been an MP since 1992 and currently chairs the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee.
He was elected as Member of Parliament for North Colchester in 1992, North Essex in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and most recently Harwich and North Essex in 2010.
While an MP, Bernard served five years in the Shadow Cabinet. William Hague appointed him Shadow Transport Secretary (1998-2001), and he then served as Shadow Defence Secretary under Iain Duncan Smith (2001-3).
“These were tough times in opposition. On Transport, we ran successful campaigns – against Standstill Britain and excessive fuel taxes – to expose Labour’s utter failure on transport. In Defence, I campaigned against armed forces overstretch and found myself fighting to get the equipment and funding they need.”
When Michael Howard appointed Bernard as Shadow Regions Secretary (2003-5), he campaigned against John Prescott’s plans for Regional Assemblies and masterminded the North East Says No campaign, which successfully defeated the government in the North East Referendum in 2004.
“When Labour called three referendums for Regional Assemblies for the North of England, most people thought they would win at least one or two. We derailed two referendums before they started, because of the terrible scandal about postal voting. The polls forecast a two-to-one victory for the ‘Yes’ campaign in the North East, but the team at North East Says No ran a brilliant campaign. The government lost four-to-one against. It spelled the end of the road for elected regional assemblies – and the beginning of the end for Prescott.”
Since the 2005 election, following a spell as Shadow Energy Minister, David Cameron appointed him Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Candidates. He was charged with the controversial task of promoting a fairer proportion of women and black and ethnic minority candidates. After a year’s work, over 30 per cent of candidates in winnable seats were women, along with a number of black and ethnic minority candidates. Currently only 9 per cent of Conservative MPs are women, and only 11 per cent of the 2005 intake were women.
“This was a hell of a challenge – but there was no way to force Constituencies to select a woman or a black candidate. Everything we achieved was by consent and persuasion. Some wanted all women shortlists and racial quotas – I was never going to have that. The fact that members of the Conservative Party themselves have freely chosen so many women and black and ethnic candidates shows the Conservative Party really has changed – a achievement for fairer representation in politics. No candidate has been chosen without open and fair competition.”
Prior to his election to the House of Commons, Bernard worked in industry and commerce: in sales and marketing with the Ford Motor Company Ltd (1983-6) and for venture capital provider 3i PLC (1986-8) before being appointed manager of Legal and General Ventures Ltd (1989-1992). Bernard Jenkin says, "some experience in the real world of business has been hugely important in politics."
Bernard also served on the Social Security Select Committee (1993 to 1997) and as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Hon Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland (1995-7). He also served on the Defence Select Committee (2006-10) and was appointed to the Council of St Paul’s Cathedral in 2006.
His political interests include foreign affairs and defence, terrorism and security, the constitution, trade, small businesses and the future of the EU.
Bernard is married to Anne and they have two sons. His hobbies include: sailing, music, DIY, fishing and his family.