Former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward has said that he’ll be voting Labour in the next general election, and would “serve my party again” if an opportunity arose.
Woodward served as Northern Ireland secretary under Gordon Brown from 2007-2010, but left politics in 2015.
Joining James Whale on talkRADIO, he spoke of his respect for Jeremy Corbyn - despite never having met the Labour leader during his time in the party.
'People underestimate Jeremy Corbyn'
“Like many people inside the Labour Party, I never had a conversation with Jeremy Corbyn in my entire time in Westminster.
“That’s mainly because he’s so busy rebelling on a serial basis and he didn’t come very north into the House of Commons, so I have to tell you that Jeremy Corbyn and I don’t know each other.
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“All I can say is that what I do know of Jeremy, is that people have underestimated him because they didn’t know him.”
He praised Mr Corbyn for his response to the Grenfell Tower fire.
“Look at how he brilliantly looked at what happened in the wake of the Grenfell fire disaster,” Woodward said.
“He was the politician who said, ‘right, this is a tale of two cities in London’. He caught the public mood, and I think we have to understand that Jeremy Corbyn, despite being considerably older than me, he has got his finger on a major bit of the pulse of Britain.”
'Corbyn would make a better leader'
Woodward added that he thought Mr Corbyn would make a “better Prime Minister” than Theresa May.
“At the last general election, Theresa May, with great hubris, thought she could destroy the Labour party,” he said. “She ended up at the end of her general election campaign with fewer MPs than she started. And that was up against Jeremy Corbyn.
“I think Jeremy deserves our respect, and I think he’d make a better Prime Minister than Theresa May. As somebody who made a very thought-through decision about crossing the floor in 1999, I have to tell you that I will be voting Labour at the next general election with Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party, because I do not think that this government deserves to be given day in Downing Street.”
'Difficult' to be openly gay in politics
Watch: Shaun Woodward tells James Whale about his decision to come out as gay
In 1999, Woodward defected from the Conservatives to the Labour party, and joked that it was a “terrible career move - you really upset the people you leave, and the people you join take a very long time to learn to trust you”.
Asked whether he’d consider returning to politics, he explained his decision to leave was based on his personal life, but didn’t rule it out.
“I’ve had the good fortune to be out of politics for three years. I say good fortune, because you get the chance to rebuild your life, in my case, coming out and saying I’m a gay man living an openly gay life, which was something I needed to do for my family and for everybody else,” Woodward said.
“That was difficult to do in politics, because you were constantly waiting for it to catch up with your own life, and I’ve had the chance to sort that out. If an opportunity arose to serve my party and my country again, yes I would.”
He added that he thought “being gay would not be an obstacle” in politics now.
“This is a very different country for somebody to grow up in who’s gay, and to live and work in as an adult,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean all the problems are over, of course they’re not, but this is different now and I think we could consider that if a man or woman came forward, and they happen to also be gay, and they look like a future leader, it would not be an obstacle to being a Prime Minister of this country, and that’s great.”