James Heappey grew up in Nailsea, Somerset. He attended Queen Elizabeth's Hospital in Bristol and graduated from the University of Birmingham having studied Political Science.
Following university, Heappey attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He then served as an officer in the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment and then The Rifles, the county regiment for Somerset, in Kabul in 2005, Northern Ireland in 2006, Basra in 2007 and Sangin in Helmund Province in 2009. He also served in Kenya, and in 2011 he was posted to the Ministry of Defence in London, where he worked as executive officer on the General Staff and was promoted to Major in 2012. After leaving the army, he worked as a researcher for North Somerset MP Liam Fox.
Heappey was first elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wells in the 2015 general election, having been selected as the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate two years earlier. He used his maiden speech in the House of Commons to encourage the Government to continue addressing the problems that many rural communities face, including poor road connecitons, limited access to the rail network, weak phone signals and slow broadband speeds.
In October 2015, Heappey succeeded Nick de Bois as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the UK Events Industry. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business, a group which seeks to secure policy outcomes that promote the sustainable growth of the rural economy.
From July 2015 to October 2016, Heappey served on the House of Commons' Energy and Climate Change Select Committee. He backed the Government's decision to give the go-ahead for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, in particular citing the benefits for the local economy of Somerset. Heappey has also called for greater exploitation of the resources and expertise available in the marine energy sector.
Although sceptical about some aspects of the European Union, he was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 EU membership referendum. However, he voted in favour of the Government's timetable to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union before the end of March 2017.
During the 2017 general election, he apologised for an incident when meeting the sixth form at Millfield school in Street, Somerset. Heappey asked pupils how they would vote in the proposed second Scottish independence referendum, and a Scottish girl said she would support independence. Most reports assert that Heappey then asked her "Why don’t you fuck off back to Scotland?", but The Guardian reports Heappey's claim that he told her to "fuck off", but did not say "back to Scotland". In his apology, Heappey claimed that that the comment had been intended as a joke.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for Wells, Tessa Munt, condemned Heappey's use of what she called "bullying, racist and abusive language to dismiss a teenage schoolgirl engaging in political debate." In Scotland, Heappey's conduct was described as "appalling behaviour" by the Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, and as "utterly inappropriate" by Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. Sturgeon claimed that Heappey's conduct was part of a wider problem with Tories, noting that several Scottish Conservative councillors had been exposed as having expressed racist views on social media.
Heappey lives in the Somerset town of Axbridge with his wife and two children.