Woodrow Wyatt

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Woodrow Lyle Wyatt, Baron Wyatt of Weeford (4 July 1918 – 7 December 1997), was a British politician, published author, journalist and broadcaster, close to the Queen Mother, Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch. For the last 20 years of his life, he was chairman of the state betting organisation The Tote.

Early life[edit]

Born in Kingston upon Thames, Wyatt was educated at Eastbourne College and Worcester College, Oxford. He served throughout the Second World War with the Suffolk Regiment and rose to the rank of major. Wyatt was mentioned in despatches from Normandy.

Politics[edit]

He was elected to Parliament in 1945 as the Labour MP for Birmingham Aston, and served until 1955. During the Cabinet Mission to India in 1946 he served as an informal liaison officer between the Mission and the Muslim League. Wyatt was briefly a junior minister in Clement Attlee's final administration in 1951 but thereafter was never in office. During his period out of parliament, Wyatt was a reporter for the BBC's Panorama current affairs programme, in which a November 1957 report of Wyatt's revealed ballot rigging in the then communist-influenced Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

He was seen by some as a maverick, and by others as a man of firm convictions which made him temperamentally unsuited to 'toeing the party line'. He returned to Parliament in 1959 as member for Bosworth, Leicestershire. He rebelled in the 1964–1970 parliaments over steel nationalisation.

After politics[edit]

After ceasing to be an active politician, he was appointed by Roy Jenkins as Chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board from 1976–1997. At first he was an active chairman, rooting out corruption, but later grew complacent and the Tote stagnated.[1]

In the mid-1980s he played a key role as Murdoch's fixer in brokering negotiations with the electricians' union, aiding News International to move to Wapping.[1] He set up a newspaper and printing business with his third wife, which soon failed.[1]

Writing[edit]

Wyatt was a prolific journalist, with a diverse range of interests, and by the late 1970s he had crossed the political spectrum and became an admirer of Margaret Thatcher. During this period his News of the World column, 'The Voice of Reason', was regularly attacked by Thatcher's political opponents, who in latter years dubbed it 'The Voice of Alzheimers'.[citation needed]

Wyatt's caustic, candid and mischievously indiscreet diaries were published posthumously in three volumes. He was knighted in 1983[2] and was created a life peer on 3 February 1987 with the title Baron Wyatt of Weeford, of Weeford in the County of Staffordshire.[3]

Wyatt edited ten volumes of English Story (1940–50). His books include two autobiographies, Into the Dangerous World (1952) and Confessions of an Optimist (1985). The three volumes of his diaries (published posthumously as The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt by Macmillan, edited by Sarah Curtis) were: volume 1 1985-88 (1998); volume 2 'Thatcher's Fall and Major's Rise', 1989–92, (1999); volume 3 'From Major to Blair', 1992 until three months before his death in December 1997, (2000).

Andrew Neil in the New Statesman wrote of the diaries: "Wyatt has done the country a service in giving us the unalloyed truth about how this country's governing and social elite still operates", and the Daily Express called the journals "The most explosive political memoirs of modern times". However, the historian Robert Rhodes James "advised caution in believing them. 'Even if the diarist is not attempting to give a deliberately false version, a talented writer can easily over-dramatise...' There is plenty of internal evidence that Wyatt should be approached with a similar caution."[4] Robert Blake, Baron Blake, the Tory historian, called Wyatt a "notorious liar".[5]

In 2000, the journalist Petronella Wyatt, his daughter by his fourth marriage, published a book entitled Father, Dear Father: Life with Woodrow Wyatt.

Marriages, children, and death[edit]

Wyatt was married four times, to:

  • First (div): Susan Cox, no issue.[6] She was a fellow student at Oxford.[1]
  • Second (div): Nora Robbins, no issue.[6] She was his secretary[1]
  • Third (1957, dissolved 1966): Lady Moorea Hastings (b. 1928) daughter of the 16th Earl of Huntingdon and a granddaughter of Luisa Casati; one son: Hon. Pericles Plantagenet Wyatt.
  • Fourth (1966): Veronica (Verushka) Banszky von Ambroz, née Racz, a Hungarian and widow of a surgeon;[6] one daughter: journalist Petronella Wyatt (b. 1968).

He arranged for cousins to take care of his first child when his wife made it clear she was not interested.[1] When they divorced, he got custody of his son.

He was the cousin of England Test cricketer Bob Wyatt.[7] He claimed to be a descendent of the architectural Wyatt family.

He was a cousin of musician Robert Wyatt, who described him as an "appalling man with a sadistic sense of superiority".[8] Woodrow Wyatt influenced the musician to join the Communist Party of Great Britain to reclaim the Wyatt name.[9]

He died in Camden aged 79.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "To Move and To Shake" by Geraldine Bedell. The Independent on Sunday, 24 November 1996.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 49575. p. 16802. 20 December 1983.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 50824. p. 1631. 6 February 1987.
  4. ^ David Sexton, "Don't believe all those diary droolings", The Evening Standard (12 October 1998), A 11.
  5. ^ "Woodrow, Verushka, Pericles and Petronella: welcome to the world of the Wyatts". The Independent (London). 20 November 2004. 
  6. ^ a b c Sholto Byrnes, " Woodrow, Verushka, Pericles and Petronella: welcome to the world of the Wyatts" The Independent 20 November 2004. [1] Retrieved 21 September 2007.
  7. ^ Martin-Jenkins, Christopher (1980). The Complete Who's Who of Test Cricketers (1st edition ed.). London: Orbis Publishing. p. 151. ISBN 0-85613-283-7. 
  8. ^ O'Dair, Marcus (2014). Different Every Time (1st ed.). London: Serpents Tail. pp. 20–22. ISBN 9781846687594. 
  9. ^ O'Dair, Marcus (2014). Different Every Time (1st ed.). London: Serpents Tail. pp. 244–245. ISBN 9781846687594. 

External links[edit]


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Redvers Prior
Member of Parliament for Birmingham Aston
19451955
Succeeded by
Julius Silverman
Preceded by
Arthur Allen
Member of Parliament for Bosworth
19591970
Succeeded by
Adam Butler