John Redwood

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
John Redwood
John Redwood.jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
In office
15 June 1999 – 2 February 2000
Leader William Hague
Preceded by Gillian Shephard
Succeeded by Archie Norman
Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
11 June 1997 – 15 June 1999
Leader William Hague
Preceded by Margaret Beckett
Succeeded by Baroness Browning
Secretary of State for Wales
In office
27 May 1993 – 26 June 1995
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David Hunt
Succeeded by William Hague
Minister of State for Local Government
In office
15 April 1992 – 27 May 1993
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Michael Portillo
Succeeded by David Curry
Member of Parliament
for Wokingham
Assumed office
11 June 1987
Preceded by William van Straubenzee
Majority 13,492 (24.7%)
Personal details
Born (1951-06-15) 15 June 1951 (age 63)
Dover, Kent, England
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
St Antony's College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
Religion Anglican

John Alan Redwood (born 15 June 1951) is a British Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament for Wokingham in Berkshire. He was formerly Secretary of State for Wales in Prime Minister John Major's Cabinet and was an unsuccessful challenger for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1995. He is currently Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party's Policy Review Group on Economic Competitiveness. He is employed by N M Rothschild & Sons.

Early life[edit]

Magdalen College, Oxford

Redwood was born in Dover, Kent. He was the only child of William Charles and his wife, Amy Emma Redwood (née Champion). His parents lived in a council house in Canterbury until Redwood was four years old. Redwood was educated locally, attending Kent College, Canterbury, on a scholarship before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained the degree of BA in Modern History in 1971. He later studied at St Antony's College, Oxford, taking a DPhil degree in history in 1975 titled, "The fear of atheism in England, from the Restoration to Berkeley's Alciphron".

From 1974 to 1977, he was an investment analyst at Robert Fleming & Co. From 1977 to 1978, he was a Bank Clerk at N M Rothschild & Sons, becoming a Manager in 1978, Assistant Director in 1979 and a Director of the Overseas Division from 1980 to 1983. From 1986 to 1987, he was Overseas Corporate Finance Director and Head of International (non-UK) Privatisation.

Academic career[edit]

Redwood has been a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, since 1972 where he was a Tutor and Lecturer from 1972 to 1973 and has been a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University since 2000.

Member of Parliament[edit]

He was an Oxfordshire County Councillor between 1973 and 1977, the youngest ever at the age of 21, and contested Southwark, Peckham in October 1982 at the Peckham by-election, 1982 which also brought Harriet Harman into public view. Although always a safe seat, Harman managed to embarrass both Norman Lamont and Sheila Faith by publishing letters ahead of the declaration showing they had anticipated her victory.[1]

Redwood became MP for Wokingham in 1987. He was selected two years earlier, when he joked to the selection committee, "I understand you have a California estate. Would you allow yourself to plant four Redwoods among you?". Previously had been the head of Margaret Thatcher's Policy Unit in the early to mid 1980s. He was a backbencher for his first two years in Parliament. Thatcher wanted to make Redwood a Junior Minister straight away after the election, but David Waddington, then Chief Whip, told her that he needed experience as an MP and backbencher first, where he remained for the next two years. Redwood was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in July 1989 for Corporate Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry. In November 1990, he was promoted to Minister of State. He oversaw the privatisation of the telecoms industry. Redwood has been labelled the "Pol Pot" of privatisation by the Yorkshire Post.

Redwood became Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities after the 1992 General Election where he successfully saw through the abolition of the Community Charge, known as the "Poll Tax", and its replacement, the Council Tax. Like Nigel Lawson, Redwood opposed the poll tax on the grounds that it was unworkable. He also opposed capping of local authorities, believing that it undermined local accountability.

Redwood has campaigned for wider share ownership among workers, so as to prevent them going on strike, because, as he said, "Why would people go on strike if they were striking against themselves?".

Redwood holds conservative views on social matters, being opposed to attempts to reduce the age of consent for homosexuality in both 1994 and 1999. He voted for the reintroduction of capital punishment in 1988, 1990 and 1994, and chose to vote to keep Section 28 in November 2003.

In Government[edit]

In the May 1993 Government reshuffle, Redwood was appointed to the cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales.

Redwood was an energetic although somewhat controversial Secretary of State for Wales. He deferred several road widening schemes which would have endangered the environment of rural areas in Wales. In 1995 he was at loggerheads with the Countryside Council for Wales because he had decided to cut its grant by 16%.[2] He also launched a scheme to provide more funding for popular schools with high numbers of applicants and concentrated extra expenditure on health and education services away from administrative overheads. Redwood consequently gained a somewhat haughty reputation with apparent disregard for national feeling; this did not endear him further to some of the population, most memorably when in 1995 he returned £100,000,000 of Wales's block grant to the Treasury unspent,[3] and when he made a speech in Cardiff in July 1993 stating that before State Aid be granted to single mothers, the father should first be contacted to help financially.

Redwood's most famous gaffe was his attempt in 1993 to mime to the Welsh national anthem at the Welsh Conservative Party conference when he clearly did not know the words.[4] Redwood of course subsequently learned the anthem but, in August 2007, when an unconnected news story on Redwood was illustrated with the same clip, Tory activists complained and the BBC apologised to him.[5]

Redwood's tenure as Secretary of State for Wales was summarised humorously by Adam Price, an MP for Plaid Cymru, as "The most bizarre political appointment since Caligula made his horse a Senator."[6]

1995 leadership contest[edit]

When John Major tendered his resignation as Conservative leader in 1995, Redwood resigned from the Cabinet and stood against Major in the subsequent party leadership election on 26 June. It was on the question of the European Union that Redwood took issue with the party leadership, taking a Eurosceptic stance. Redwood's policies were tax cuts, reduced public spending, opposing the closure of popular local hospitals, Britain's non-participation in a Single Currency, extended right-to-buy public housing schemes, keeping the Royal Yacht Britannia, and carrying on with the Northern Ireland peace process.

In the ballot held on 4 July, Redwood received 89 votes, around a quarter of the then Parliamentary Party. Major received 218 votes, or two-thirds of the parliamentary party vote. There were eight abstentions and twelve spoiled papers.

The Sun newspaper had declared its support for Redwood in the run-up to the leadership contest, running the front page headline "Redwood versus Deadwood".[7]

After the 1997 general election defeat[edit]

When Major resigned as party leader after the General Election defeat of 1997, Redwood stood in the resulting election for the leadership, and was again defeated, although he secured more support than rival candidates Peter Lilley and Michael Howard.

Redwood served in the Shadow Cabinet of the eventual winner William Hague, shadowing first the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, leading the Shadow Cabinet's opposition to the National Minimum Wage.

Redwood was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, but was dropped in a mini-reshuffle in February 2000. In 2001 Hague's successor, Iain Duncan Smith, offered Redwood the Shadow Trade and Industry portfolio once again, but he declined on principle. He remained a potent presence on the backbenches, making useful attacks on the Government and writing books and pamphlets denouncing the European Union and praising Newt Gingrich and US capitalism. Among the many groups which have published Redwood's pamphlets are the Bruges Group, Research Centre Free Europe and the Selsdon Group.

On 8 September 2004, Michael Howard, by now Leader of the Opposition, added Redwood to the Shadow Cabinet as Spokesman on Deregulation (a post without a direct counterpart in the government of the day).

During the 2005 Conservative leadership campaign, Redwood supported first Liam Fox and then David Cameron. In December 2005 Cameron appointed him as Chairman of the Conservative Party's new Policy Review Group on Economic Competitiveness.

Redwood's local constituency association had received numerous donations from the Mabey Group,[8] and in 2001 Redwood became chairman of a Mabey family trust, continuing for six years until 2007. He resigned twelve months before a Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribe payments made by Mabey Group to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Political funding[edit]

The Wokingham Conservative Constituency Association has received £475,319.53 since 2005.[9] Since 2010, Redwood has received over £300,000 in remunerations from Evercore Pan-Asset Capital Management Ltd, a financial management company, and about £80,000 since 2010 from pump manufacturing company Concentric plc.[10][11] He has received upwards of £9000 in private donations from individuals Caroline and Nicholas, 5th Viscount Bearsted.[12]


Redwood has also been an active writer of books, including: Stars and Strife, Superpower Struggles, Singing the Blues, The Death of Britain, Our Currency Our Country and Just Say No: 100 Arguments Against The Euro. His latest book, I Want to Make a Difference - But I Don't Like Politics, examines the reasons for the decline in turnout at UK elections and was published in October 2006. Redwood is also a regular contributor to The Times newspaper and contributes to Freedom Today, the journal of the Freedom Association, and The Business and appeared on 18 Doughty Street Talk TV in December 2006.


Redwood's appearance has led to some commentators, originally former Conservative MP turned political sketch-writer, Matthew Parris, noting similarities between him and Star Trek's Spock and so Redwood is often called a Vulcan. The name stuck, and in line with this, political cartoonists often draw him with pointed ears.

In the media[edit]

Redwood was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!, and continues to appear regularly on TV, such BBC's Question Time. One commenter, columnist Peter Hitchens, has said Redwood "is so bad at modern telly politics" because he "is a genuine intellect".[13]


Personal life[edit]

He married Gail Felicity Chippington, a barrister, on 20 April 1974 in Chipping Norton; they had two children, Catherine (born 1978) and Richard (born 1982). They divorced acrimoniously in 2003.[14][15][16]


  1. ^ "Sheila Faith - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Lean, Geoffrey (19 February 1995). "Greens attack Redwood policies". The Independent (London). 
  3. ^ BBC News Wales 4 Oct 1999
  4. ^ Rick Perry's predecessors: when politicians forget
  5. ^ "BBC: We were wrong to mock John Redwood". Telegraph. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  6. ^ Adam Price's Speech, 12 September 2009, Plaid Cymru 2009 Party Conference, Llandudno
  7. ^ Macintyre, Donald; Brown, Colin (27 June 1995). "PM assails 'malcontent' Redwood". The Independent (London). 
  8. ^ Rob Evans and David Leigh (12 August 2008). "Building firm says it may have breached Saddam sanctions". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Brown, Colin (27 July 2003). "Redwood leaves his wife for former model Nikki Page". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Kite, Melissa (15 February 2004). "Redwood comes out fighting against ex-wife". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  16. ^ David Hencke, Westminster correspondent (28 March 2005). "Redwood's ex-wife debunks Vulcan jibe | UK news". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William van Straubenzee
Member of Parliament for Wokingham
Political offices
Preceded by
David Hunt
Secretary of State for Wales
Succeeded by
William Hague