New Labour spin doctor Derek Draper was part of media power couple

The former political adviser retrained as a psychotherapist and married TV presenter Kate Garraway.

Laura Harding
Friday 05 January 2024 12:40 GMT
Derek Draper with wife Kate Garraway (PA)
Derek Draper with wife Kate Garraway (PA) (PA Wire)

Former lobbyist and political adviser Derek Draper was part of one of Britain’s most prominent media power couples with his marriage to TV presenter Kate Garraway.

The New Labour spin doctor reached great heights of influence in the 1990s but became best known for his involvement in the “lobbygate” scandal.

A former researcher for Blairite Peter Mandelson, Mr Draper became a director of lobbying firm GPC Market Access in 1996 and set up the New Labour organisation Progress with Liam Byrne, who went on to become an MP.

It was while working at GPC that Mr Draper was caught on tape boasting to an undercover journalist of his government connections.

In one of the first sleaze scandals to hit Tony Blair’s fledgling administration, he reportedly claimed: “There are 17 people who count in this government, and to say I am intimate with all of them is the understatement of the century.”

Mr Draper insisted he had done nothing wrong in the so-called “cash for access” scandal dubbed “lobbygate” but admitted he did have a “big mouth”.

The incident appeared to spell the end of any bigger political ambitions for the famously champagne-swilling New Labour stalwart and he travelled to the United States, where he trained as a psychotherapist.

In 2005, Mr Draper married Kate Garraway, the GMTV co-presenter who is now part of the Good Morning Britain team on ITV and appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2007 and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in November 2019.

In 2008 he returned to the Labour spotlight as the head of the website LabourList, a left-wing rival to online portals such as Conservative Home.

He hit the headlines again in 2009 and stepped down as editor of LabourList after email correspondence between him and Damian McBride, one of Gordon Brown’s key aides, was leaked.

In the emails, Mr McBride proposed a campaign of unfounded personal smears against senior Conservatives on a new blog called RedRag, an idea praised by Mr Draper as “absolutely, totally brilliant”.

In a resignation statement released to the Guardian, Mr Draper acknowledged that his continued presence at LabourList – which was originally set up to discuss serious policy ideas – was detracting from the website.

“I regret ever receiving the infamous email and I regret my stupid, hasty reply. I should have said straight away that the idea was wrong,” he said.

“I do ask people to remember that its contents were never published by me, or anyone else, involved in the Labour Party and they would never have seen the light of day were it not for someone hacking into my emails and placing them into the public domain.

“Because of that, a silly idea ultimately destined for the trash can became a national scandal.”

Mr Draper was once again consigned to the Labour wilderness and became chief executive of a leadership consultancy, compiling weekly emails summarising the best content for business and HR leaders.

In 2019 he announced he was resigning his Labour Party membership.

Mr Draper was among the first in the UK to fall seriously ill with Covid-19 and was admitted to an intensive care unit as the country entered lockdown in March 2020.

He was placed in an induced coma and it was not until more than a year later, in April 2021, that he was able to return home to his family.

His case attracted much media attention, partly because of his marriage to Garraway, who produced an award-winning documentary about his illness, and partly because of the length of his hospital stay.

Some media reported that he had become the nation’s longest-suffering patient after spending 13 months in hospital.

Despite now being free of the virus, Mr Draper had suffered long-lasting damage to his organs and required daily care at home.

In early July 2022, Garraway disclosed he had been readmitted to hospital and later that month dropped out of presenting Good Morning Britain as his condition worsened.

The February following, the ITV series Kate Garraway: Caring for Derek aired on ITV, and documented Draper’s arrival home from the hospital while also following Garraway as she navigated the “myriad challenges of the social care system and its complexities.”

Months later, the couple were invited to be Sir Elton John’s guests of honour at his Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert at London’s O2 Arena in the April.

Draper was photographed by his wife’s side in June, despite being in and out of hospital, when she collected her MBE from the Prince of Wales in an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.

In December, The Sun reported Draper had “suffered a massive heart attack” and said Garraway was keeping a 24/7 vigil by his bedside.

Draper had two children with Garraway – a son, William, and a daughter, Darcey.

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