David Cameron said that a "big rock in my life has suddenly been rolled away" after a senior Conservative was found dead at the Glastonbury Festival.
The body of Christopher Shale, the chairman of the West Oxfordshire Conservative Association, was discovered in a lavatory in the VIP section of Glastonbury at around 8.45am yesterday. It is believed he had suffered a heart attack.
A police spokesperson said last night that after initial inquiries and a post-mortem examination, they were not treating the death as suspicious, adding: "Further tests will be conducted to establish the exact cause of death."
The area in which the discovery was made was where musicians and other leading festival figures were staying in Winnebago-style camper vans. Mr Shale's family had been searching for him overnight after he had last been seen around Saturday lunchtime.
Last night Conservative sources said Mr Shale had received a call from a press officer on Saturday morning warning him that The Mail on Sunday was planning to publish an excoriating memo he had written about the internal state of the local Conservative Party.
The Shale family were in a separate camping area off the main site. A distraught woman was seen being comforted by officers in the backstage area between the Pyramid and Other stages yesterday morning, after it had been cordoned off by the police.
Rupert Soames, a friend attending Glastonbury with Mr Shale, said the family were "absolutely devastated and shell-shocked but are being very brave." He added: "He was not only a very good businessman, he was a terrific father and he contributed a lot to public life."
As well as being a prominent Conservative in the part of Oxfordshire that includes Mr Cameron's Witney constituency, Mr Shale was the long-serving chief executive of Oxford Resources Ltd, a firm that advised companies on ways to reduce their costs. A moderniser on the Tory right, he was a member of the business council of the European No Campaign, and a director of the Centre for Policy Studies.
Mr Cameron's office released a warm tribute yesterday which suggested that the Prime Minister may privately agree with a lot of what Mr Shale had written. He said: "Sam and I were devastated to hear the news about Christopher. He was a great friend and has been a huge support over the last decade in west Oxfordshire.
"A big rock in my life has suddenly been rolled away. Christopher was one of the most truly generous people I've ever met. He was always giving to others – his time, his help, his enthusiasm and above all his love of life.
"Our love and prayers are with Nikki [Mr Shale's wife] and the family. They've lost an amazing dad, west Oxfordshire has lost a big and wonderful man and, like so many others, Sam and I have lost a close and valued friend."
The festival's founder, Michael Eavis, later expressed his "deepest sympathy" for Mr Shale's family. He added: "We work very closely with the police, medical and other emergency services to ensure that the festival is as safe as possible for all 177,000 people on the site."
The memo by Shale that ended up in 'The Mail on Sunday'
Christopher Shale had bemoaned the state of the Conservative Party in a leaked memo published by 'The Mail on Sunday' yesterday, suggesting that there was "no reason to join" the Tories. The newspaper article carried details of a leaked strategy document written by Mr Shale warning that the continual fall in Conservative membership could be attributed to people's suspicions that if they get involved, "we'll beg and steal from them". He added: "And they're right."
The newspaper also quoted the document as saying: "Over the years, we have come across as graceless, voracious, crass, always on the take. When we are together, we are not always a group of people to whom many of our potential members are going to be magnetically drawn."
Mr Shale then offered a solution. He said: "We must look different – when we communicate, when we're together. We must sound different – in what we say, how we say it, the language we use, our tone of voice."