King Edward's School Home Old Edwardians Website

Ten questions with...John Hemming MP (1978)


 John Hemming


John Hemming is leader of the Liberal Democrats on Birmingham City Council. He won the Birmingham Yardley seat from Labour in 2005 and held onto it in this year's General Election.

John founded his first business (John Hemming & Co) at the age of 23. This has grown to become a multi-million pound company and the leading provider of settlement systems to stockbrokers in the UK. He also founded the first e-commerce operation (MarketNet) outside the USA in 1994.

John left King Edward's in 1978 and went on to study Physics at Magdalen College in Oxford.


1. What is your favourite memory from your time at King Edward's?

It is difficult to identify one. I enjoyed as House Music Captain arranging Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre for six milk bottle blowers (one of whom bottled on the day) and accompanying instruments. Many of the Scout Camps were enjoyable although sleeping on the Birmingham Water Pipes at Bewdley was good when the day before was warm and the tent was centrally heated. However, if the day before was cold then it was very cold.

2. Who was your most influential teacher?

The teachers were all quite good and the fact that they tolerated me was particularly welcome.

3. Did you ever get up to any mischief at King Edward's?

I was not entirely popular when I went to a by-election rather than going to school and had a number of disputes with the school authorities, but it was not the Bill Oddie style of directing traffic through the school.

4. What were your career aspirations when you were at school?

I was in a rock group, but expected to be involved in political activity. I did not expect to go into business.

5. How did you reach the position you are in today?

I joined the Liberals in 1976 whilst at KES and have since then delivered a lot of leaflets.

6. What is the highlight of your career to date?

I have been involved in a wide range of things. I am a Liberal Democrat MP (since 2005). I chair a company I founded in 1983. I formed the first internet commerce operation outside the USA in 1994. I play jazz and other piano at various gigs every year. I also help litigants in person in legal proceedings as well as doing all sorts of campaigning.

7. What achievement in your life are you proudest of?

The last month has been quite volatile and politics can go from highs to lows. I was pleased to receive a lifetime achievement award at the age of 49 for the work with my company John Hemming & Co. However, in some ways I am happiest fighting injustice. For example, the Aston Election Petition was a legal document that I drafted which proved massive election fraud - which still happens although less frequently. I am also interested in preventing the abuses of human rights that occur in the family division of the UK and have a number of cases in the European Court. Perhaps playing jazz piano with Digby Fairweather has to come somewhere in this.

8. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Another area it is difficult to single things out. I like Woody Allen's statement that "eighty percent of success is showing up".

9. What advice would you give to the boys at King Edward's today?

Graft and persistence matter as well as competence, but don't forget those less fortunate than yourselves.

10. If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

Albert Einstein, who was also interested in science, music and politics. Alive - perhaps Warren Buffett who like myself is a contrarian - ie. he makes his own assessments and does not just follow the crowd.