Monday, May 11, 2015

John Whittingdale

John's father was a doctor of the same name, based for most of his life in Sherborne, Dorset. He married rather late in life - to Margaret Esme Scott Napier (who'd been married twice before), and when she produced a son, he invested him with his own father's (another Sherborne medic) full name - John Flasby Lawrance Whittingdale. Pater, who was medical officer to both Sherborne boys' and girls' public school, was known around the market town for his memory for names and faces, and his old-fashioned bicycle. He died aged 80, when his son was just 14.

John's first ambition was to be an astronaut, but he claims to have been fired up about politics from the age of 15, when he listened to the 1974 election results on the radio under the bedclothes. Both Radio 4 results programmes that year were hosted by Peter Hardiman Scott, with Professor Antony King in psephology corner and Robert Carvel for sharp insight.

John went as a boarder to Sandroyd prep school, then Winchester College, and picked University College, London, for his degree "to pursue my interest in politics".  He applied to Chris Patten at the Conservative Research Department for a job before starting university, and became a "library" boy during the Winter of Discontent. At university, he started the astronomy course he'd originally chosen but "found that it was far more theoretical than I had expected and I wasn’t very good at it. So I left university and rejoined the Conservative Research Department, in time for the 1979 general election".

"This brought me into regular contact with Margaret Thatcher, Geoffrey Howe, Willie Whitelaw and all the other leading figures. For an 18 year old, it was incredibly exciting."

Thatcher in place, John went back to university, chaired the Conservative Society, picked up a 2.2 in economics, and was ready to campaign with Mrs T again in 1983. He became a sort of travelling research library for her election tour: "I used to carry a vast suitcase, filled with every conceivable piece of information I thought she might ask for. I did the same job in 1987."

Then he became Political Secretary at Number 10, and was with Mrs Thatcher until her resignation. This has lead to relentless teasing for John, with jibes of "Toy Boy". Others have gone further - try this from Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, earlier this year  "At the risk of ruining the hon. Gentleman’s reputation as Thatcher’s gimp—I mean toy boy—may I enormously commend him for the work he has done as Committee Chair for the past 10 years ?"

John married Ancilla Murfitt in 1990, and they have two children, Henry, rising 22 and Alice 20. The marriage was dissolved in 2007, and there is some evidence that Ancilla, a nurse practitioner and school governor, now supports the Greens.

Henry went to Bristol University, and has had some wonderful work experience opportunities, at the Press Association, the Telegraph. Global Radio, Absolute Radio, Somethin' Else and Rinse FM.
He's currently a marketing assistant at Island Records.

John is a member of the Cornerstone group of Conservative MPs ("Flag, Faith and Family"). I bet you can't guess who else might be in it. 

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