The Ashcroft Affair: Backbencher with flair for political campaigns campaigns

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The Independent Online
The Campaigner

PETER BRADLEY, the MP who has brought the Tory treasurer into the political limelight with a series of attacks, is no stranger to controversy. The MP for The Wrekin cut his teeth during the homes-for-votes scandal involving Westminster City Council in central London.

Elected a Labour councillor in Westminster in 1986, the former public relations man and public affairs consultant was one of the original group who demanded an investigation into political corruption in the borough. He also led a campaign to force the council to buy back three cemeteries it had sold for 15 pence.

Born to Fred - a technical translator and staunch Labour supporter - and Trudie Bradley in 1953, young Peter was educated at Abingdon School, Oxford, and the University of Sussex before studying at the Occidental College in Los Angeles.

After completing his studies, Mr Bradley pursued a career as a public affairs consultant and held the posts of research director of the Centre for Contemporary Studies and director of the political and media consultant Good Relations before becoming managing director of the influential Millbank Consultants Ltd from 1993 to 1997.

After Mr Bradley was selected as the 1997 candidate for The Wrekin, a Tory seat that was held by the right-wing bruiser Peter Bruinvels, he was repeatedly attacked by the Tories.

He even extracted libel damages from The Times, the newspaper he has assisted in its campaign against Michael Ashcroft, over a story planted by the Conservatives, which suggested he had not filled in Westminster council's register of interests properly.

More recently, he had been hoping to cast off his image as a Labour hit- man. He became chairman of the rural group of MPs and recently published an "audit" on life in rural areas. He has also set up a working group on the fuel duty escalator.

Mr Bradley and his partner, Annie Hart, a nursery school teacher, have two-year-old twin boys, Tom and Jess.

In his spare time, he is a keen sportsman, a member of Warwickshire County Cricket Club and an Aston Villa FC supporter. He also watches rugby and enjoys walking.

The Ashcroft affair has put him more firmly back into the spotlight, though, and the MP has put much of his energy in recent weeks into digging out new facts about the Tories' main donor. One of his biggest triumphs was persuading the Foreign Office to admit that it had lobbied Belize on Mr Ashcroft's behalf. But the day after the story appeared on the front page of The Independent, Mr Bradley was enjoying quite a different kind of acclaim in his constituency.

Splashed across the front page of the Shropshire Star was another triumph of which the MP says he was equally proud - victory in a campaign to move an electricity pylon that had caused uproar in the village of Hadley.