Gary Neville – A Future Labour Party MP?

After a glittering career as Manchester United’s right-back, Gary Neville has been busy since hanging up his boots.

Having already dabbled as a football manager, established himself as a leading football pundit, part owning a football club (Salford City), and set up a multi-million-pound business empire, it appears that Neville is looking for a fresh challenge.

In January 2022, Neville announced he had joined the Labour Party.  In doing so, he has picked up a whole new legion of fans (and indeed enemies), with Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, announcing, “I think he will end up in politics”.

Gary Neville as a Labour MP?

In January 2022, Neville was interviewed by the BBC Today programme presenter and fellow Manchester United fan, Nick Robinson.  Asked by Robinson on his ‘Political Thinking’ podcast whether he would one day run for public office, Neville gave the politician’s answer, “I’m not saying never”.

Showing a politician’s self confidence, Neville said of himself, “I’m able to communicate, I know what I want, I have got a business mind, I can manage people in respect of businesses”.

Publicly musing over the prospect of a life in Westminster, Neville continued, “When I ask myself the question do you want to dip your toes in, I can’t dip my toes in because I’m all or nothing. I go in and I’m going in.”.

Even before the partygate affair, Neville seemed to be licking his lips at the thought of a career in politics.  Speaking to the Times in September 2021, Neville said, “‘I’d love half an hour across from Boris Johnson at the despatch box. I’d be angry with myself if I didn’t tear him to shreds just on basic principles of behaviour”.

In the spring of 2022, bookmakers Paddy Power cut the odds of Gary Neville becoming an MP from 100/1 to 25/1.

However at the Labour Party Conference in October 2022, Gary Neville appeared to play down the prospects of him becoming an MP.  He now said he had ‘no intention of going into politics’ suggesting that he did not want to give up his career as a football pundit.

Whilst these statements have calmed speculation for now, particularly as he continues in his role as a football pundit, it is of course entirely possible that Mr Neville may not have a change of heart closer to the 2024 general election

Gary Neville’s relations with the Labour leadership

If Gary Neville did now turn to a life in politics, he would seem to have the support of the current Labour Party leadership.  Indeed many of them see particularly keen for him to become a Labour politician.

In March 2022, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC Radio that he was a ‘big fan’ of the former footballer adding, “Gary should go as far as he wants [in politics]”.  Sir Keir has now enlisted Gary to appear alongside him at Labour Party fund raising events.

Key figures in the Manchester Labour Party also appear to be behind Mr Neville.  Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said that Gary Neville “brings a bit of life to politics”.

Manchester Central MP, and Shadow Cabinet Minister, Lucy Powell said, “Personally think he’s more than capable of navigating (well, steaming) his way through the world of politics! Look forward to helping”.

Although Neville, a self described capitalist, may not win many friends on the Labour left, this backing from the current Labour hierarchy matters.

Keen Westminster watchers will note that there are a number of much older Labour MPs in the Greater Manchester area, many of whom may soon retire from Westminster  These include Tony Lloyd in Rochdale, Graham Stringer in Manchester Blackley and Broughton; Barbara Keeley in Worsley and Eccles South, and  Yvonne Fovargue in Makerfield. Should, as would seem likely, these MPs step down at the next election, all might present an attractive safe Labour seat for Mr Neville.

Gary Neville as the Labour Mayor of Manchester?

Neville has also been touted as a potential successor to Andy Burnham, as Mayor of Greater Manchester.  The next mayoral elections are due in May 2024.

However, in the past Neville has though played down the possibility, telling the BBC in January 2022 that, “I’m not sure that would be for me to be honest”.

Could Gary Neville even become prime minister?

In America, celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump have found it very easy to rise to the very top of US politics.

In the UK the story is different.  Many people with stella careers outside the world of politics, including former Asda supermarket boss Archie Norman, Oscar winning actress Glenda Jackson, and Olympic athlete Seb Coe, have not had the same level of success when they arrived at Westminster.

Nonetheless, should he ever become a Labour MP, ardent Neville fans can also take a punt on him bucking that trend.  In the spring of 2022, bookmakers were offering odds of just 66/1 on Gary Neville becoming prime minister one day.

What does Gary Neville believe in?

Although Neville publicly identifies with the left of the political spectrum, his publicly stated opinions appear somewhat more eclectic. This is how he described his political outlook when speaking to the Times newspaper in September 2021:

“If there was a hard left and a centre-right, I’d go centre-right, but if there was a hard right, I’d go anything but that”.

“I’m a capitalist because I behave like a capitalist in the sense I develop property, I open hotels, but you can be a capitalist and have compassion and understand what’s right and wrong”.

“My political thoughts come from two things I’ve been influenced most by football and family. My mother — Tory voter. That came from the high tax rises [of] the late 1970s, the Labour government where her parents lost their business due to what they believe to be Labour economics. My father — staunch Labour”.

“People quite often call me ‘a champagne socialist’ and I say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, I am.’ People should be entitled to drink champagne if they want it. I believe everybody likes very good things, nice car, nice house, nice holidays and access to good transport, healthcare and education. The socialist part is that not only I should have access to that. I believe everyone should. I also believe people should have to work their absolute backside off every single day and give their all.”

In comments that will not go down well with the momentum activists who bolstered Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, the now self-described ‘champagne socialist’ told the BBC’s Nick Robinson in 2022:

“I do believe we need a progressive Labour Party, but one that not just looks after what would be the left side of the party, it has to come towards the centre”.

As Neville moves from a twitter ranting ex footballer, to someone engaged in party politics who is seen as having eyes on a potential career at Westminster, Mr Neville’s comments have started to become fair game in the media.

Tom Goodenough, online editor at the right-leaning ‘Spectator’ magazine pulled no punches in accusing Neville of a “distinctively metropolitan snobbery”.  Continuing Goodenough wrote, “He [Neville] doesn’t appear to see the contradiction of calling oneself a socialist while sending his children to private school”.

Gary Neville political soundbites

Alongside his weekly platform as a Sky Sports pundit, an open door to any media interview that he might want to undertake, and a mammoth Twitter base of some 5 million followers, Neville is already a “political influencer” with a ready made audience for his often angry soundbites.

Where Jeremy Corbyn once suggested he wanted ‘a kinder politics’, one that lacked personal abuse, Gary Neville doesn’t always follow the memo.  Here are some of his most recent soubdites:

“Absolute Joke you are. Started this mess and ran!” – Neville, responding to David Cameron on Twitter, Dec 2019

“Brexit , disaster still in play” – Neville on Twitter, June 2022

“Grateful! I had slight hope you would be different. You’re worse than him..#puupet” – Neville responding to a Tweet by Rishi Sunak and comparing him to Boris Johnson.

“If Rishi Sunak was a footballer he’d be playing for Tottenham. He looks good but when the going gets tough, he does one” – Neville, speaking at a gala Labour dinner in March 2022.

“The people of North Shropshire have spoken for us all. This government is rancid and it’s impacting them terribly” – Neville on Twitter, Dec 2021

“When we get racist abuse after a football match at the end of a tournament, I expect it, unfortunately, because it exists, and it’s actually promoted by the prime minister, who called Muslim women ‘letterboxes’”- Gary Neville, speaking to Sky Sports News

“When you’re elected and you’re in that seat in Westminster, you take a position, you don’t abstain, you take part in the match, you’re the opposition. Don’t sit in the stand.” – Neville speaking on Sky News, following Labour’s abstention from the December 2020 vote on lockdown restriction.:

“Sounds great but this isn’t the solution to this problem!! The complexity of homelessness isn’t being understood by politicians at all…” – Neville on Twitter in 2018, responding to Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to immediately buy 8,000 properties to combat homelessness. 

Gary Neville background

Neville was born in February 1975. His mother Jill was once general manager at Bury Football Club.

Neville joined Manchester United as an apprentice footballer after leaving school aged 16 in 1991.  His brother, Phil Neville, later joined him at the club.  Neville was Manchester United captain for five years.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson described Neville as “the best English right-back of his generation”.

Gary Neville debuted as an England International in a 1995 friendly match against Japan. He was selected as the youngest first-choice player at the Euro 96 tournament held in England.  Having played for his country 85 times he played in the 1998 and 2006 World Cup.

During his playing days, Neville acquired the nick name, “Red Nev”, showing himself more than happy to play the role of the activist footballer.  In January 2005, he sparked controversy after criticising Nike for launching their “Stand Up Speak Up” anti-racism campaign, arguing that the corporation was motivated by PR concerns. His remarks came after he refused to wear a Nike training top ahead of a match.

Neville announced his retirement from playing in February 2011.

Having completed his UEFA Pro coaching licences, Neville became assistant manager of the English national team under Roy Hodgson.  He also briefly served as manager of the Spanish team, Valencia, but following a run of terrible results, he was sacked after just four months in the role.

Since returning from Spain, Neville has rekindled his broadcasting career with Sky Sports.  As well as commenting on leading premier league games each weekend, he also appears on the Monday Night Football with fellow ex player Jamie Carragher.  Carragher himself has links with Labour, having given £10,000 to Andy Burnham’s 2010 Labour leadership campaign.

In the decade after his ManUnited playing career, Neville has turned his hand to business, notably in the hotel and hospitality sector. The Sun newspaper has suggested that Gary Neville was involved with some 66 businesses and had financial assets of around £70 milion.

Alongside other former Man United players like Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville is the co-owner of the League Two football club Salford City.

Garry Neville married Emma Hadfield in June 2007.  The couple have two daughters.

Gary Neville was the best man to David Beckham on the day of his wedding to the spice girl, Victoria Adams.

Social Media

Twitter – @GNev2