John Whittingdale

Sir John Flasby Lawrance Whittingdale OBE (born 16 October 1959) is a British politician serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Maldon (and its predecessors) since 1992. A member of the Conservative Party, Whittingdale served as the Minister of State for Media and Data at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) from 2020 to 2021, having previously served at the DCMS as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the Cabinet from 2015 to 2016.

John Whittingdale
Official portrait of Mr John Whittingdale crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2017
Minister of State for Media and Data
In office
14 February 2020 – 16 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byNigel Adams
Succeeded byJulia Lopez
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%)
Political Secretary to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byStephen Sherbourne
Succeeded byJudith Chaplin
Personal details
Born (1959-10-16) 16 October 1959 (age 63)
Sherborne, Dorset, England
Political partyConservative
Ancilla Murfitt
(m. 1990, 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 (2005–2010) and the Conservative Party Board (2006–2010).

Whittingdale served as Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee from 2005 to 2015. He was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2015. He was one of the six Cabinet ministers to come out in favour of Brexit during the 2016 EU referendum and was afterwards a supporter of the Eurosceptic campaign Leave Means Leave. He was dismissed by Prime Minister Theresa May in July 2016 during a cabinet reshuffle.

Early life and careerEdit

Whittingdale was born on 16 October 1959.[1] He is the only son of John Whittingdale FRCS (1894–1974)[2] 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.[3][4] Via his mother Whittingdale is in distant remainder to the lordship of Napier.[5] Whittingdale was educated at Sandroyd School[6] 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.[7][8]

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 (1984–1985); Leon Brittan (1985–1986), and Paul Channon (1986–1987). 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 Order of the British Empire and continued to serve as her Political Secretary until being elected to Parliament in 1992.[9]

Parliamentary careerEdit

Whittingdale entered the House of Commons in 1992 as the MP for South Colchester and Maldon. He was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary 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.[10]

He was later Shadow Culture Secretary from 2004 until the reshuffle following the general election in 2005, at which he was returned as 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.[11][needs update]

Whittingdale was among the 175 MPs who voted against the Same-sex Marriage Bill in 2013.[12] 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.[13]

He was in favour of Brexit during the 2016 EU membership referendum.[14] 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 PM Theresa May urging that the UK withdraw from both the European Single Market and the Customs Union.[citation needed] After the referendum, Whittingdale was a supporter of the Eurosceptic campaign Leave Means Leave.[15]

Media Select CommitteeEdit

On 14 July 2005[16] 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.[17]

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."[18]

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.[19] 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."[20] They both did, on 19 July, in what one paper described as the most important Select Committee hearing in parliamentary history.[21]

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.

Culture SecretaryEdit

Whittingdale was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by Prime Minister David Cameron on 11 May 2015.[22] He was sworn in to the Privy Council following his appointment.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25][26]

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

In July 2016, shortly after his dismissal, 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.[27]

Whittingdale returned to the DCMS in February 2020, but as a minister of state rather than secretary of state. He was the minister of state for media and data.[28]

Personal lifeEdit

Whittingdale married Ancilla Campbell Murfitt, a nurse and school governor, in 1990; the couple had two children before their divorce.[29][7] 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.[30]

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.[24][31] 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."[32]

Whittingdale is a member of the Church of England.[citation needed]



  1. ^ "Democracy Live: Your representatives: John Whittingdale". BBC News. Archived from the original on 27 July 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  2. ^ Plarr's Lives of RCS Fellows Online
  3. ^ Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1985, ed. Charles Kidd, David Williamson, Debrett's, p. 877
  4. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 107th edn. London: Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 2862 (NAPIER, L). ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  5. ^ Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 2008, ed. Charles Kidd, Christine Shaw, Debrett's, p. 1042
  6. ^ Sandroyd School's list of Distinguished Alumni Archived 28 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Plunkett, John (18 May 2015). "John Whittingdale, the horror fan putting the frighteners on the BBC". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  8. ^ "John Whittingdale MP". WPR. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  9. ^ "John Whittingdale, Esq, OBE, MP Authorised Biography". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 14 May 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  10. ^ Sieghart, Mary Ann (18 July 2011). "Mary Ann Sieghart: And the real winners will be ..." The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  11. ^ "Officers". All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  12. ^ Rogers, Simon (6 February 2013). "Gay marriage bill: how did your MP vote? Map". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  13. ^ Saul, Heather (16 December 2014). "Equal Pay: Seven male Tory MPs vote against bill to make big companies reveal gender pay gap". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Theresa May's cabinet: Who's in and who's out?". BBC News. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Co-Chairmen - Political Advisory Board - Supporters". Leave Means Leave. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  16. ^ "" (PDF).
  17. ^ Knowles, Daniel (18 July 2011). "The MPs who will take on the Murdochs". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 31 July 2011.
  18. ^ Halliday, Josh (13 April 2011). "News of the World phone hacking: John Whittingdale seeks public inquiry". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "Committee calls Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks". UK Parliament.
  20. ^ Mulholland, Hélène (14 July 2011). "Phone hacking: Rupert Murdoch summoned to appear before MPs". The Guardian.
  21. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Owen, Paul; Wells, Matt (19 July 2011). "Phone hacking: Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks face MPs". The Guardian.
  22. ^ "John Whittingdale becomes UK culture secretary". BBC News. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  23. ^ "Privy Council appointments: May 2015". GOV.UK. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  24. ^ a b "Minister John Whittingdale admits relationship with sex worker". BBC News. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  25. ^ Watts, Joseph (19 April 2016). "John Whittingdale caught in lapdance club row". Evening Standard. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  26. ^ Wright, Oliver (19 April 2016). "John Whittingdale admits to taking free dinner with performers at lapdance club". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  27. ^ Greenslade, Roy (21 July 2016). "Why should files on Mark Thatcher (and Profumo) remain secret?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  28. ^ "Minister of State (Minister for Media and Data)". GOV.UK. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  29. ^ "Vote 2001: Candidate; John Whittingdale". BBC News. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  30. ^ "Charles Napier admits string of historic sex offences against boys". The Telegraph. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  31. ^ Dominiczak, Peter (13 April 2016). "John Whittingdale had relationship with 'dominatrix'". The Telegraph.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ "No. 52371". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 December 1990. p. 19582.
  34. ^ Tilbrook, Richard (14 May 2015). "ORDERS APPROVED AND BUSINESS TRANSACTED AT THE PRIVY COUNCIL HELD BY THE QUEEN AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE ON 14TH MAY 2015" (PDF). The Privy Council Office. Retrieved 21 November 2022.
  35. ^ "Political Honours conferred: October 2022". GOV.UK. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  36. ^ Laurenson, Jack (5 September 2019). "Jack Laurenson: Ukraine's Friend and Foe of the Week". KyivPost. Retrieved 25 February 2020.

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by Political Secretary to the Prime Minister
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Colchester South and Maldon

Constituency abolished
Constituency established Member of Parliament
for Maldon and East Chelmsford

Member of Parliament
for Maldon

Political offices
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Succeeded by
Preceded byas Minister of State for Sport, Media and Creative Industries Minister of State for Media and Data
Succeeded by