John Whittingdale

John Flasby Lawrance Whittingdale, OBE MP (born 16 October 1959)[1] is a British politician serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Maldon since 1992. A member of the Conservative Party, Whittingdale has served the Minister of State for Media and Data at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2020, having previously served at DCMS as Culture Secretary in the Cabinet from 2015 to 2016, until he was fired by Theresa May.

John Whittingdale

Whittingdale in 2017
Minister of State for Media and Data
Assumed office
14 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byNigel Adams
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
In office
11 May 2015  13 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded bySajid Javid
Succeeded byKaren Bradley
Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
In office
14 July 2005  11 May 2015
Preceded byGerald Kaufman
Succeeded byJesse Norman
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
In office
19 June 2004  6 May 2005
LeaderMichael Howard
Preceded byJulie Kirkbride
Succeeded byTheresa May
In office
23 July 2002  6 November 2003
LeaderIain Duncan Smith
Preceded byTim Yeo
Succeeded byJulie Kirkbride
Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
18 September 2001  23 July 2002
LeaderIain Duncan Smith
Preceded byDavid Heathcoat-Amory
Succeeded byTim Yeo
Member of Parliament
for Maldon
Maldon and East Chelmsford (1997–2010)
South Colchester and Maldon (1992–1997)
Assumed office
9 April 1992
Preceded byJohn Wakeham
Majority30,041 (59.6%)
Personal details
Born (1959-10-16) 16 October 1959 (age 61)
Sherborne, Dorset, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Ancilla Murfitt (Divorced)
Alma materUniversity College London

Whittingdale has been an MP since the 1992 general election, for a series of constituencies centred on the town of Maldon, Essex. He was Vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee. He was a member of the Executive of Conservative Way Forward (2005–10) and the Conservative Party Board (2006–10).

Whittingdale was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by David Cameron on 11 May 2015.[2] He was dismissed by Theresa May on 14 July 2016 during a Cabinet reshuffle.[3] He was one of the six Cabinet ministers to come out in favour of Brexit during the 2016 EU referendum and has since been a supporter of the Eurosceptic campaign Leave Means Leave.[4]

Early life and career

The only son of John Whittingdale FRCS (1894-1974)[5] and Margaret Esme Scott (1920-), née Napier, who had previously married firstly, in 1942 (div. 1946), Capt. Ephraim Stewart Cook Spence, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and secondly, in 1946, her cousin, Major Alexander Napier (d. 1954), of the Indian Army,[6][7] via his mother Whittingdale is in distant remainder to the lordship of Napier.[8] Whittingdale was educated at Sandroyd School[9] and Winchester College, followed by University College London (UCL) where he was Chairman of UCL Conservative Society. He graduated with a 2:2 in Economics in 1982.[10][11]

From 1982 to 1984, Whittingdale was head of the political section of the Conservative Research Department. He then served as Special Adviser to three successive Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, Norman Tebbit (1984–85); Leon Brittan (1985–86), and Paul Channon (1986–87). He worked on international privatisation at NM Rothschild in 1987 and in January 1988, became Political Secretary to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Upon her resignation Whittingdale was appointed OBE and continued to serve as her Political Secretary until being elected to Parliament in 1992.[12]

Parliamentary career

Whittingdale entered the House of Commons in 1992 as the MP for South Colchester and Maldon. He was appointed PPS to Eric Forth, Minister of State for Education and Employment but resigned, as is customary, after voting against the government for an amendment that would have allowed media publishers with more than a 20% share of the national press market to buy an ITV company.[13]

He was later Shadow Culture Secretary from 2004 until the reshuffle following the general election in 2005, at which he was returned as Member of Parliament (MP) for Maldon and Chelmsford East. In 2005, he was appointed to the Executive of Conservative Way Forward, a Thatcherite pressure group within the [Conservative Party. He is a council member of The Freedom Association and of the European Foundation. In 2008, he was elected as a Parliamentary Member to the Board of the Conservative Party and Vice Chairman of the Conservative Parliamentary 1922 Committee. In 2011, he was Chairman of the Football Governance Inquiry. In 2012, he was Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. As of May 2019 he was Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group.[14]

Whittingdale was among the 175 MPs who voted against the Same-sex Marriage Bill in 2013.[15] In 2014, Whittingdale along with six other Conservative MPs voted against the Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill which would require all companies with more than 250 employees to declare the gap in pay between the average male and average female salaries.[16]

He was in favour of Brexit during the 2016 EU membership referendum.[3] Following the referendum, which resulted in a narrow majority in favour of Brexit, he was one of several Conservative MPs who signed a letter to Theresa May urging that the UK withdraw from both the European Single Market and the Customs Union.[citation needed]

Media Select Committee

On 14 July 2005[17] he became the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. In this role he led the committee's 2009/2010 investigation into libel and privacy issues, including the News International phone hacking scandal after The Guardian first revealed the extent of the practice at the News of the World. He was alleged to have warned members of the committee to consider not compelling former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks to testify due to the potential risk that their personal lives would be investigated in revenge, but has strongly denied the accusation.[18]

In April 2011 he called for a public inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World and to why a series of investigations by Scotland Yard failed to link any News International employees to phone hacking other than the News of the World's former royal editor, Clive Goodman. Whittingdale said: "There are some very big questions; what I find [most] worrying is the apparent unwillingness of the police, who had the evidence and chose to do nothing with it. That's something that needs to be looked into."[19]

With just one out of three of News International's senior executives agreeing to appear before the committee session on 19 July, Whittingdale took the rarely used step of issuing a summons to compel the Murdochs to attend.[20] Whittingdale said Select Committees had taken such steps against individuals in the past and they had complied and continued "I hope very much that the Murdochs will respond similarly."[21] They both did, on 19 July, in what one paper described as the most important Select Committee hearing in parliamentary history.[22]

For its successful work on the phone hacking scandal, Whittingdale accepted The Spectator's 2011 "Inquisitor of the Year" award on behalf of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

Funding and expenses

In 2012 Whittingdale received £8,000 for 32 hours' work as a non-executive director of Audio Network plc, an online music catalogue.[23] He was also reimbursed expenses for official visits to Yalta, Taiwan and Armenia.[23]

Culture Secretary

Whittingdale was sworn into the Privy Council in May 2015 as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.[24]

In April 2016, Shadow Culture Secretary Maria Eagle called for Whittingdale to recuse himself from decisions regarding the outcome of the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics because the story about Whittingdale's former girlfriend being a sex worker exposed him to pressure from the press.[25] A week later, it emerged that Whittingdale had accepted hospitality from the Lap Dancing Association in about 2008 at which time Whittingdale and two other MPs visited two clubs in one evening, while the industry's licensing was under investigation by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. The hospitality was not declared in the Register of members' interests, or later when Whittingdale later spoke out in the Commons against new regulations introduced by the Labour government.[26][27]

On 14 July 2016, Whittingdale was dismissed from his position as Culture Secretary by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May.[3]

In July 2016, shortly after his sacking, The Guardian criticised Whittingdale over his decision to turn down a request from the Daily Mirror for the release of historic documents relating to Mark Thatcher's dealings with the government of Oman in the 1980s. Roy Greenslade wrote that few, "apart from the man himself and his friends", could disagree with the argument that the public had a right to know.[28]

Whittingdale returned to DCMS in February 2020, but as a Minister of State rather than Secretary of State. He is the Minister of State for Media and Data.[29]

Personal life

Whittingdale married Ancilla Campbell Murfitt, a nurse and school governor, in 1990; the couple had two (now adult) children before their divorce.[30][31] Whittingdale's half-brother is Charles Napier, former treasurer of the defunct Paedophile Information Exchange, who was most recently convicted of child sexual abuse offences in November 2014.[32]

On 12 April 2016, British media reported Whittingdale had been involved in a relationship with a female sex worker between August 2013 and February 2014. In a statement to the BBC's Newsnight programme, he said he had been unaware of his girlfriend's true occupation after meeting her through, and that he had ended the relationship after he had discovered it through reports that the story was being offered for publication to tabloids.[25][33] On 13 April 2016, David Cameron's spokesman said, "John Whittingdale's view was that this was in the past, and had been dealt with."[34]

Whittingdale is a member of the Church of England.

Honours and Awards

See also


  1. "Democracy Live: Your representatives: John Whittingdale". BBC News.
  2. John Whittingdale becomes UK culture secretary, BBC, 11 May 2015
  3. "Theresa May's cabinet: Who's in and who's out?". BBC News. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  4. "Co-Chairmen - Political Advisory Board - Supporters". Leave Means Leave. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  5. Plarr's Lives of RCS Fellows Online
  6. Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1985, ed. Charles Kidd, David Williamson, Debrett's, p. 877
  7. Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 107th edn. London: Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 2862 (NAPIER, L). ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  8. Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 2008, ed. Charles Kidd, Christine Shaw, Debrett's, p. 1042
  9. Sandroyd School's list of Distinguished Alumni Archived 28 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  10. John Plunkett (18 May 2015). "John Whittingdale, the horror fan putting the frighteners on the BBC". The Guardian.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "People of Today Index, People of Today, People of Influence - Debrett's". Archived from the original on 14 May 2015.
  13. The Independent And the Real Winners Will Be..., 18 July 2011
  14. "Officers". All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  15. "Gay marriage how did your mp vote Map". 6 February 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  16. "Equal Pay: Seven male Tory MPs vote against bill to make big companies reveal gender pay gap". 16 December 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  17. "" (PDF).
  18. "The MPs who will take on the Murdochs". The Daily Telegraph. London. 18 July 2011.
  19. The Guardian report on hacking, 13 April 2011
  20. "Committee calls Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks". UK Parliament.
  21. The Guardian report on hacking scandal, 14 July 2011.
  22. Sparrow, Andrew; Owen, Paul; Wells, Matt (19 July 2011). "Phone hacking: Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks face MPs". The Guardian. London.
  23. "John Whittingdale Conservative MP for Maldon". Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  24. "Privy Council appointments: May 2015".
  25. "Minister John Whittingdale admits relationship with sex worker". BBC News. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  26. Watts, Joseph (19 April 2016). "John Whittingdale caught in lapdance club row". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  27. Wright, Oliver (19 April 2016). "John Whittingdale admits to taking free dinner with performers at lapdance club". The Independent. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  28. Roy Greenslade (21 July 2016). "Why should files on Mark Thatcher (and Profumo) remain secret?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  29. "Minister of State (Minister for Media and Data) - GOV.UK". Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  30. "Vote 2001: Candidate; John Whittingdale". BBC News. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  31. Plunkett, John (18 May 2015). "John Whittingdale, the horror fan putting the frighteners on the BBC". Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  32. "Charles Napier admits string of historic sex offences against boys". The Daily Telegraph. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  33. Dominiczak, Peter (13 April 2016). "John Whittingdale had relationship with 'dominatrix'". The Telegraph.
  34. Booth, Robert; Stewart, Heather (13 April 2016). "Whittingdale didn't tell PM about relationship with sex worker, No 10 says". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  35. "Jack Laurenson: Ukraine's Friend and Foe of the Week | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. Retrieved 25 February 2020.