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Jon Kay reports for BBC News
"The Labour Party is making the most of the defection"
 real 28k

Lord Norman Tebbit, Former Tory Party Chairman
"Mr Woodward seems more anxious to play to the homosexual gallery"
 real 28k

Saturday, 18 December, 1999, 21:31 GMT
Tory star who jumped ship

Mr Woodward was surprised and angry at his dismissal from the front bench

Shaun Woodward has for some years been at the heart of the Tory party machine, making his defection to Labour a particularly bitter blow.

Married into the Sainsbury family he seemed - until he jumped ship - to have impeccable Conservative credentials.

Aged 41, he was born in Bristol and graduated with a double first from Cambridge University.

He worked at the BBC from 1982-1990 as a researcher and producer on current affairs programmes and Esther Rantzen's That's Life, before moving into politics in 1991 as a communications chief for the Conservative Party.

During the 1992 election he worked as media guru for then party chairman Chris Patten, specialising in television and advertising. The surprise Conservative election victory he helped mastermind led him to be tipped as a rising star within the Tory party.

He first entered parliament in 1997 as MP for Witney, one of the safest seats in the country, and was rapidly promoted to become shadow minister for London.

protest Mr Woodward supported lowering the gay age of consent
However, his liberal views brought him into conflict with Conservative leader William Hague and, as one of the few surviving one nation Tories on the front bench, he was uneasy with Mr Hague's drive to take the party to the right.

In particular he opposed the controversial Clause 28 legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, and said he could not back Mr Hague's stance as a matter of principle.

As a director of the charity Childline he said he could not support legislation that failed to protect children from "homophobic bullying" in schools.

In the 1997 leadership campaign he first backed Stephen Dorrell, then Kenneth Clarke, and in 1998 he was one of only 18 Tory MP's to vote in favour of lowering the age of consent for gays to age 16.

Since his sacking from the front bench earlier this month he has made several attacks on Conservative policies, in particular on the party's stance on the European single currency and the minimum wage.

Mr Woodward is married to supermarket heiress Camilla Sainsbury, daughter of Sir Tim Sainsbury.

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