Ex-Tory joins Government as Biotech tycoon takes defence job

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Shaun Woodward provided Tony Blair with one of his most stunning publicity coups when he crossed the Commons floor to join Labour five years ago.

The former Conservative head of communications was given his reward in 2001 when he inherited the safe Labour seat of St Helens.

The new Northern Ireland minister remains one of the most unlikely figures in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Probably the only Labour MP with a butler, he lives in an £8m Oxfordshire mansion with Camilla, his wife, who is heir to a £100m slice of the Sainsbury supermarket fortune.

He has kept a low profile since 2001, but was drafted into Labour headquarters at the election.

Mr Woodward, a former presenter of TV's That's Life, joined the Tories in 1989 and acted as director of communications during John Major's successful election campaign three years later. He became MP for Witney in 1997 and served as frontbench spokesman on London. He quit the party in protest over William Hague's support for section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality.

After his defection, he faced hostility from many Labour MPs and a newspaper smear campaign, including the "outing" of Lesley, who was born his brother and is now his sister after a sex change.

¿ Lord Drayson, the biotech millionaire who becomes a Defence minister, is among Labour's most generous donors. Within six weeks of being made a Labour peer last year he handed over £500,000 - on top of two £50,000 donations he gave Labour previously.

He is highly rated by the Prime Minister but is seen as a controversial figure by some at Westminster. His former company Powderject secured a £32m contract to supply the Department of Health with smallpox vaccine.

Two inquiries cleared ministers and Powderject of impropriety over the award of the contract and Lord Drayson has since severed executive links with his former company.

Like the Prime Minister he is an enthusiast for bioscience and made his maiden speech in the Lords championing Britain as a home for biotechnology.

He is very wealthy, having shared £100m with his family when Powderject , a vaccines company, was sold to the American drugs company Chiron.

Lord Drayson is believed to have pocketed about £40m from the sale. Lord Drayson?s father-in-law, Brian Bellhouse, who invented the initial needless injection technology, is believed to have got £18m for his stake in the business.

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