He was reputed to be Britain’s richest MP with a property portfolio estimated to be worth in excess of £50m but the subject of his family’s domestic help was always shrouded in mystery.
Now Shaun Woodward, St Helens South’s MP until May’s elections, has finally admitted he did employ a butler at one of his many palatial properties.
Mr Woodward, who defected from the Tories to become a Labour MP in 1999, has long been subject to speculation that he enjoyed the services of a besuited domestic worker.
Many criticised his domestic arrangements, citing it as evidence that Mr Woodward was a ‘champagne socialist’ but he always refused to be drawn on the subject while in office.
During the 2001 general election when he stood for election in St Helens as a Labour MP, one newspaper hired an actor to follow Mr Woodward around on the campaign trail dressed in a butler’s traditional penguin suit.
But with his Westminster career behind him, Mr Woodward, who is married to Sainsbury’s heiress Camilla, is now more forthcoming.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a butler,” he told the Daily Express.
“Interestingly the last one ended up producing a musical on Broadway.”
Since leaving Parliament, Mr Woodward, has embarked on a project to raise money for a new building for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He also served as the president of the Hamptons International Film Festival, a role previously occupied by Hollywood star Alec Baldwin.
He is also offering advice to his daughter, the hugely successful food writer and blogger, Ella Woodward.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a butlerFormer St Helens MP, Shaun Woodward
“I’ve warned her that she needs to be prepared for problems and a media backlash in three years’ time and I should know,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud of her.”
Mr Woodward’s started out as a researcher on the TV programme That’s Life and spent 17 years in the Commons.
Before entering Parliament he was the Conservative Party’s director of communications but later defected to Labour.
He was reputed to be Britain’s richest MP, with a homes on London, a villa in Mustique, an estate in the Cotswolds as well as homes in New York and France.
He also owned a terrace property behind St Helens town hall which he stayed in while visiting the constituency.