Alumni engagement and philanthropy

MEET MARK LOGAN – BALLYMENA BORN CONSERVATIVE MP AND CHINA EXPERTPalace of Westminster and Big Ben with (inset) picture of Mark Logan MP

23 November 2021

Fluent mandarin speaker Mark Logan, a 37-year-old County Antrim-born Queen’s Law graduate (LLB 2006), was elected Conservative Party MP for Bolton North East in December 2019 and is now vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China.

Before becoming an MP, Mark worked for the UK Foreign Office, through which he was head of Communications at the British Consulate-General Shanghai. He then worked in the private sector for Chinese conglomerate Sanpower and also for a leading US management consultancy. 

It's all a very long way from the village of Ahoghill, four miles outside Ballymena, where he was born.  

“My father was a businessman and my mother a nurse,” Mark told Queen’s. “And when I was a young teenager at Ballymena Academy I was obsessed with football!”

Motivated to apply to Queen’s – “Open Day was inspiring and the School of Law had a great reputation” – Mark has many fond memories of his time at University in Belfast.

“Meeting many new friends and contacts, as well as late night scrans at places like Spuds and the kebab shop up on Stranmillis; I was involved in the Student Law Society, though I probably joined too many other groups that I wasn’t able to manage in the end.”

It was as an undergraduate studying for his Law degree, which he says gave him a "dedication to detail, wording and argumentation that has been helpful in his subsequent career", that Mark took his first informal, one night a week, Mandarin language course, which was to give his career before party politics called a very distinct oriental focus. It's a focus that he has retained since going to Westminster.

Leaving Queen’s in 2006 with a degree and a desire to ‘gain much needed international experience outside the UK’, Mark first headed for San Francisco where he field managed a team of Democratic National Committee canvassers to command funding support for the Mid-Term Congressional Elections.

He studied Mandarin in Shanghai Jiao Tong University (2007-08) and Peking University (2008-09), he undertook a Translation and Chinese for Lawyers course in the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London (2009 – 2010). And in-between he found time to work as the 2008 Olympic Attaché at the embassy in Beijing.

This was followed by two years in international marketing for Education for a Better Future before he joined the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Shanghai in May 2012 where he was Head of Communications and Chief Spokesman covering diplomatic and government communications and media engagement for four and a half years. In short, he was the British Government's chief spokesperson in East China overseeing all publicity campaigns and strategic communications.

Highlighting what he enjoyed most about that period in his life, Mark said: “Being outside my comfort zone. Experiencing a place that in all of human history has never grown so quickly. The fascinating culture and people. The undisputed foodie country. And trying to explain the UK to a Chinese audience and vice-versa.”

Westminster calling

Fast forward to 2017, and Mark returned to Northern Ireland to stand as the Conservative Party candidate in the East Antrim constituency for the general election. With a promising career elsewhere what persuaded him to throw his hat into the political ring?

“It’s funny that Liam Neeson (also from Ballymena) learnt the tricks of the trade from going to hear Rev Ian Paisley preach when he was a lad. I also grew up observing the politics and campaigning of the former First Minister in North Antrim.

“Ultimately my inspiration came from wanting to give back to the society and country that has given me so many opportunities to grow, and a belief (perhaps somewhat naively some will say) that we can make a change for the good to people’s lives.”

While he doubled the Tory share of the vote, and the total number polled for the party compared with 2015, the result was ultimately a landslide victory for the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, with Mark coming in 6th place.

In the next two years, he held posts as Head of Global Communications at MNC and Country Marketing Director for a leading US Management Consultancy while earning an MSc in Chinese Studies from Wadham College, University of Oxford.

Then, in December 2019, he was once again selected as the Conservative Party candidate in the general election, this time in the traditional Labour seat of Bolton North East. Mark was among over 80 new Tory MPs in the Johnston landslide, ultimately winning the North West of England seat with a slim majority of 378 votes (0.9%) and a swing of 4.7%.

Speaking about his constituents Mark said: “Boltonians share many common traits and experiences to many parts of the north of England and Northern Ireland. Kind people, down to earth (no airs and graces) and also in recent decades we have all experienced a trickier economic environment than many parts of the UK.

“Bolton, like Ballymena, was once one of the greatest market towns in the region (think “There’s a big shopping centre…”). Being the MP means thinking about the opportunities, decisions and legislation that will best help my constituents materially and even spiritually. By that I mean engendering a sense of community, of hope, and of ambition for the future generations.”

Not surprisingly perhaps Mark is now a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China and was involved in early discussion around the formation of the UK National Committee on China, a group promoting debate on all things Chinese.

Looking East

At a time when there is a large cohort of Chinese students (c1,200) enrolled at Queen’s in Belfast and at the China Medical University – The Queen's University of Belfast Joint College – and with his in-depth knowledge of the country, how would Mark suggest Queen’s could enhance its relationship with China?

“Queen’s has done an excellent job at growing its international student base. Even as far back as 2002 when I landed in BT7 there was a noticeable buzz from across the world on campus. Building on that, I believe making the University a welcoming place through, for example, the charter flight initiative in 2020, along with canvassing ideas from current students will all serve the University well.

“Strategically speaking, understanding the UK government’s integrated review, innovation strategy, and economic priorities – along with China’s 5 year economic plan and other important legal and political developments – will allow Queen’s to find a path that works in the interest of the student body.”

As Mark looks forward to a full calendar year of slightly more normal – or less abnormal – politics, how would he encourage his fellow Queen’s graduates to expand their links with China?

“The world’s economic energy has been moving rapidly to East Asia, and therefore being literate in China, will be akin to understanding the United States over the last half-a-century. Though because of language, cultural and other barriers it will take more of an effort to understand China, and therefore I completely support initiatives to increase China awareness across the UK.

“Mainland China alone has 1.4 billion residents, so it will unlock huge opportunities for Bolton and the rest of the UK.”

Mark still has many family members in Northern Ireland and regularly returns to his hometown. He is still in touch by email and social media with a number of former classmates and tutors, and always tries to pay a visit to the ‘wonderful Queen’s campus’ when he is home.  

As to the future, who knows and who is to say that the affable man from Ahoghill might not one day make it to the government front benches? Watch this space.   

For parliamentary queries email Mark Logan; for political enquiries you can contact him at: or at the House of Commons.

For general enquiries or to submit graduate news stories, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Queen’s Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO).

Photo credits: Ana Gic (main); Markus Winkler (headline) – both from Pixabay.  

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