The high-flyer who planned Major win

AS A MAN whose career has moved easily between television, advertising and politics, Shaun Woodward should not find the switch from the Tories to New Labour too much of an upheaval.

Always on the left of the party, his resignation letter to William Hague yesterday revealed a deep unease with what he regards as the new regime's "increasingly right-wing" policies. "After a period of very serious reflection, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that New Labour more embodies the values for which I entered politics," he wrote.

His decision follows his sacking as shadow minister for London because of his support for the Government's plans to repeal Clause 28 legislation, which bans the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools.

A high-flying and long-time party strategist, Mr Woodward entered Parliament at the last election, winning Douglas Hurd's safe seat of Witney in Oxfordshire.

A trustee of Childline, the telephone counselling service for children, he has spoken up for gay rights before, telling MPs that equalising the age of consent was a decision which would be of comparable historic significance to the abolition of slavery and giving women the vote.

In 1998 he was one of only 18 Tory MPs to vote in favour of lowering the age for gay sex to 16.

In the 1997 leadership campaign he backed first Stephen Dorrell, then Kenneth Clarke, and he has supported Clarke and Chris Patten in their pro-European stance.

His departure is a significant loss to the party. This is not simply because of his advertising and campaigning background, but also because he is just the kind of family man the party needs. Married to Camilla Sainsbury, whose father is the former Hove MP and supermarket boss Sir Tim Sainsbury, he has four young children.

Indeed, until he fell out of favour he was considered to embody the youthful and dynamic characteristics that Mr Hague has been so desperate to cultivate in the party he inherited from John Major. He represented the one-nation approach that many in it feel that Mr Hague should adopt.

His departure is part of a relentless series of setbacks that have befallen Mr Hague since the good Euro-election results in July. One party insider said: "Anything like this is bad because it stops the party in its tracks. Woodward's departure is worse because it feeds the public's image that the Tory party is becoming more extreme."

Woodward, who is 41, was born in Bristol and left Cambridge with a double first. During the Eighties he worked for the BBC, progressing from researcher to editor on That's Life! and producing Panorama and Newsnight.

He also worked for Saatchi & Saatchi and in 1991 he was headhunted by Chris Patten to be the party's new director of communications. He went on to mastermind John Major's 1992 election victory, specialising in television and advertising. Together with Saatchi & Saatchi, he was responsible for planning the "Labour Tax Bombshell" campaign in 1991.

An eloquent man and a determined networker, he even managed to squeeze in six months at Harvard as a Kennedy scholar before entering Parliament.

That's Life! presenter, Esther Rantzen, describes Mr Woodward as "an excellent journalist and a friend" who is "very very bright".

"Shaun was always interested in improving the circumstances of people's lives, particularly the least well off. He was responsible for the groundbreaking work we did on transplants, which not only changed people's lives but changed attitudes towards transplants," she said.

"This decision must have been very difficult for him because he has been at the centre of the Tory party machine, and many of his friends, like Chris Patten and Douglas Hurd, are high-profile party figures.

"He will have done this as a matter of principle. Clause 28 may have been the superficial problem but he feels the party has drifted a long way to the right."

Mr Woodward is the third Tory MP to defect to new Labour. Alan Howarth, then Conservative MP for Stratford-on-Avon, switched parties in October 1995 after speaking about his "profound disagreement" with a range of government policies, and is now arts minister.

Peter Temple-Morris, MP for Leominster and a pro-European, resigned the Tory Whip in November 1997 and sat as an independent before defecting to Labour in June last year.

In addition to politics, Mr Woodward has many other interests. He is a director of the English National Opera and the co-author, with Esther Rantzen, of Ben: The Story of Ben Hardwick.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam