Lord Toby Harris has lived in London all his life.
He joined the Labour Party at 16 and was a Branch Secretary while still at school. He has been at various times a GC and LGC delegate and a Constituency Labour Party Chair. He was a member of the National Policy Forum for twelve years, a member of the NEC Local Government Sub-Committee and of the Board of the Greater London Labour Party until 2004.
He was elected as the youngest member of Haringey Council in 1978 and became Leader of the Council in 1987, having previously been Social Services Chair and Chief Whip. He led the Labour Group on Haringey Council to victory in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 elections – gaining 14 seats in 1990, another 14 in 1994 and only losing one ward to the Lib Dems in 1998.
He was Chair of the Labour Group of the Local Government Association from 1995 to 2004. From 1986 to 1993, he was Chair of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities’ Social Services Committee and led for local government in negotiations about the introduction of Community Care and the Children Act. He was also a member of the Executive of the Local Government Association for a number of years and a Vice President.
He was the first Chair of the Association of London Government from 1995 to 2000, which before the creation of the Greater London Authority, was effectively the democratic voice of London. He campaigned for the principle of the GLA within the Party, coordinated the local government side of the 1998 London referendum campaign and founded the all-Party “Yes for London” campaign.
In 2000 he was elected to the new London Assembly as the member for Brent and Harrow and became Leader of the Labour Group on the Assembly and the first Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
After he lost his seat on the Assembly in 2004, he was appointed as the Home Secretary’s representative on the Metropolitan Police Authority to oversee the national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, primarily its role in counter-terrorism and security. He also oversaw their risk management and audit, and was the interim chair of the Audit Panel for the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
He was appointed to the House of Lords by Tony Blair in 1998 and is now Chair of the Labour Peers’ Group. He chairs the House of Lords Committee on the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy and is a member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. He chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Policing and is Treasurer of the Parliamentary Internet and Communications Technology Forum. He was a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on “Personal Internet Security” that reported in 2007.