Howard Flight: Millionaire gent who helped to woo the City

Marie Woolf,Chief Political Correspondent
Saturday 26 March 2005 01:00 GMT

Howard Flight is one of the wealthiest MPs in the Commons and cuts a dash around Westminster in his pinstripe suits and braces.

Howard Flight is one of the wealthiest MPs in the Commons and cuts a dash around Westminster in his pinstripe suits and braces.

He is a workaholic who keeps himself busy financially as well as politically. His entry in the Commons register of interests shows that he holds no fewer than 13 City directorships, and when not at Westminster he acts as a consultant to the investment management industry.

A keen skier and collector of antiques, including Flight & Barr Worcester china, Mr Flight has a ski chalet in France, a flat in London and a flat in West Sussex in addition to his smart constituency home.

Friends say that he is an extremely popular figure in the affluent constituency of Arundel and South Downs, a picturesque safe Tory seat dominated by Arundel castle.

The Cambridge-educated economist appears the ideal figure to represent the prosperous Tory patch made up of small towns and villages populated by retired City types.

An extrovert with a liking for colourful phraseology, he is a 40-a-day smoker and fast driver who was once fined £540 for driving at 73mph over a 40mph bridge.

The MP is generous with his considerable wealth and is not shy about wining and dining members of his local Tory association, one of the wealthiest in Britain. His wife, Christabel, has raised large sums for the Conservatives, playing a key role in organising the party's winter ball.

Local party members are said to be fond of Mr Flight, who has represented them since 1997.

Aged 56, he has an estimated fortune of £6.5m, accumulated from the sale of his investment company Guinness Flight a year after becoming an MP. But he describes himself as an "Essex man" who became an entrepreneur at an early age, making pocket money selling watercress he had grown at a stall at the Women's Institute.

After attending Brentwood school in Essex and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he studied economics, and Michigan University in the United States, he started a career in investment which took him to Hong Kong and Bombay, India, where he almost died of typhoid. He eventually took over the investment arm of Guinness Mahon and formed Guinness Flight, which he sold to the South African group Investec.

Mr Flight remains a director of several Investec companies and holds shares in Halliday Flight Halliday, a "small family property company".

As a Tory MP he has helped to woo City backing in the run-up to the general election, serving as the party's special envoy to the City and deputy chairman. Although he has not reached the top rung of the Tory hierarchy, he played a key role in shaping the Conservative policy of cutting government waste to free up cash for public spending and tax cuts.

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