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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Woodward's Tory regret

Nick Assinder

Labour's controversial candidate in St Helens, Shaun Woodward, has declared he wanted to quit as a Tory MP from virtually the day after he joined.

He suggested that, even before his election victory in the Tory stronghold of Witney in 1997, he realised he was in the wrong party.


As soon as I was in (the Tory party) I wanted to get out of it

Shaun Woodward
"As soon as I was in it, I wanted to get out of it.

"People might say I may have realised too late. But I realised the Tory party was going to the right, to the extreme," he said.

"I did not come into politics to make people's lives worse and I realised this Tory party was destined only to make people's lives worse. So I left."

Defector on defensive

And, in an interview with BBC News Online, he defended his decison to defect to Labour - a party he had previously attacked so vehemently.

The former Tory director of communications said Labour supporters and trades unionists had, like him, refused to back his new party in the 1980s.

Tory candidate Lee Rotherham
Rotherham brands opponent Champagne Socialist
Its extremist policies may have been based on decent ideals, but policies such as nuclear disarmament had made it impossible to support, he claimed.

Mr Woodward also again denied he employed butlers - a claim that has seen him attacked for his inappropriate millionaire lifestyle in the largely working class constituency.

He said a man pictured working for him in St Helens was his PA (personal assistant).

His comments came as he continued his election campaign concentrating on meeting as many local voters as possible.

As the controversy about his selection for the seat continued to rage he avoided the media in favour of little-publicised visits to schools, hospitals and old people's homes.

'Parachuted in'

His opponents, meanwhile, poured scorn on his claims, insisting he had been parachuted into the constituency and had changed his opinions on many policies from political expediency.

Tory candidate Lee Rotherham said: "I haven't seen much of his campaign apart from his car with a few posters on it.

"If the voters of St Helens want a Champagne Socialist who has a large selection of quotes saying one thing a few months ago, then the exact opposite now, then that is Mr Woodward.

"If they want to support someone with genuine policies for the benefit of the people of St Helens then that is the Tories."

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