Helen became actively involved in politics in 2006 campaigning with the Reigate and Banstead Conservatives in local elections.
After being a finalist at her first two candidate selections, she was chosen from almost 100 applicants as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone & The Weald in January 2008. She campaigned there for the next two years prior to being elected in the May 2010 general election.
She is the first Anglo-African female Conservative MP and Minister. She has since been returned as the MP in the general elections of May 2015, June 2017 and December 2019 with ever growing local support.
After serving on the House of Commons Justice Select Committee she was promoted by David Cameron as Minister for Justice 2012-13 and Minister for Women and Equalities 2012-2014. During that time, Helen was one of the three ministers responsible for taking the historic ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013’ through Parliament.
As Minister for Sport and Tourism from 2013-2015 she notably championed the growth of women and girls’ participation in sport in the UK. She achieved this through, among other things, setting up a Women in Sport advisory board, launching the #ThisGirlCan campaign and holding the first DCMS Women’s Sport Conference in October 2014.
She also drove forward a similar agenda for people from diverse and under-represented communities.
She stepped down from Government after the 2015 general Election and then served as a Trustee for the Human Trafficking Foundation, a Trustee of the Social Mobility Foundation, and an elected member of the International Development Select Committee.
During a meeting with Nigerian Vice President Osinbajo in London in 2016, Helen was asked to use her experience as a lawyer and as a politician to help strengthen the Rule of Law in Nigeria. She proceeded to instigate an initiative to help train judges and staff in the lower tier courts, working alongside the Judicial College in London and State Governors and Attorney Generals in a growing number of Nigerian states. These now include the Federal Capital Territory, Niger, Sokoto, Imo, Kaduna, Bauchi and Plateau and it is an ongoing success story.
In October 2017 she was appointed Chair of the Government’s Apprenticeships Diversity Champions Network, bringing businesses together with people of diverse and under-represented backgrounds using the transformational opportunities of apprenticeship programmes.
Under Prime Minister Theresa May, Helen served as the Conservative Party’s Vice Chair for Communities for 2 years from 2018 to 2020. During this period she travelled extensively and focussed upon issues concerning equality, inclusivity, social cohesion, racism, and discrimination, engaging deeply with the UK’s many ethnic groups and communities.
In October 2020 Helen was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the UK Trade Envoy to Nigeria, the largest market in the African Continent with a population of over 200 million people. She is supporting the drive for economic growth by building on the UK’s existing relations with Nigeria, maximising bilateral trade and generating real and long term benefits for the UK. Helen has a special relationship with Nigeria, where her father was born and raised, and where she has had strong personal connections for many years.
In January 2021 she was also appointed as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Girls Education, leading the UK’s efforts internationally to ensure all girls get 12 years of quality education. One of her goals is to drive a global campaign to improve learning and get 40 million more girls into school around the world by 2025.
For the last two years Helen has championed Government’s work as a global leader in education policy. In the course of her work she has visited Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Bangladesh, South Sudan and the US – engaging with presidents, prime ministers and education ministers, and working alongside many other international organisations such as UNICEF.
Helen also raised $10 million of finance in a short period of time from the private sector for a new Girls Education Skills Programme (GESP). The scheme was created and devised by Helen from scratch, bringing together the expertise and resources of government and the private sector. It is a new way of approaching development and was launched by Boris Johnson and Mrs Grant on the eve of International Women’s Day 2022 at No 10 Downing Street.
Helen was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for political and public service in the first Honours List in the reign of King Charles III in January 2023.
Born in London, Helen was brought up on the Raffles council estate in Carlisle for much of her early childhood.
She quickly showed sporting talent, becoming captain of the school tennis and hockey teams, and representing the County in Hockey, Tennis, Athletics, and Cross-Country. She later became under-16 Judo Champion in North of England and Southern Scotland.
Helen moved on to obtain a law degree at the University of Hull, undertook solicitors' finals at the College of Law in Guildford and qualified as a solicitor in 1988.
Helen is married with two adult sons and enjoys tennis, movies, sporting events and family life. She lives in London and in the Weald of Kent.
Business and community
In 1996 Helen set up Grants Solicitors as a specialist firm focused on dealing with the problems of family breakdown, and Domestic Violence in particular.
The practice acted for over 15,000 clients and, perhaps uniquely, the firm operated free weekly Domestic Violence outreach and advice services in multiple locations across South London, Surrey and West Kent.
Children formed a significant proportion of the work too, which over the years provided Helen with a deep understanding of the many problems relating to the health, well-being and behaviour of children within their families and as members of the community generally.
Helen was one of the contributors to the setting up of the Croydon Integrated Domestic Violence Court, the Croydon Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, and the co-located Family Justice Centre (FJC) pilot domestic violence service, also set up in Croydon.
In 2008 she travelled to Australia to advise authorities about setting up a model FJC in Sydney NSW.
She was also a contributor to the Centre for Social Justice policy publication Breakthrough Britain Volume 1 – Family Breakdown in July 2007
and the review of Family law in Britain – ‘Every Family Matters’, first published in July 2009
Helen was a non-executive director of the Croydon NHS Primary Care Trust from January 2005 until retiring in March 2007 to concentrate on becoming an MP. Her role at the Trust involved supervising and overseeing the delivery of integrated healthcare for the community, holding to account the professionally lead executive and helping to ensure best use of financial resources to maximise benefits for patients.
- Articles of Clerkship - Cartmell, Mawson & Main, Carlisle
- Clinical Negligence Solicitor, Hempsons Solicitors, London.
- Equity Partner, Fayers & Co. Solicitors, South Wimbledon.
- Senior Partner, Grants Solicitors LLP, Croydon.
- MP for Maidstone & The Weald
- Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice and for Women and Equality issues
- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Tourism
- Conservative Party Vice Chairman for Communities
- UK Trade Envoy to Nigeria
- Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Girls' Education