David Warburton: the varied past of the MP facing sexual harassment claims

Analysis: the backbencher has been a teacher, rock guitarist and van driver who some fellow MPs think had a mid-life crisis

David Warburton, a relatively unknown political figure outside his Somerton and Frome constituency, has been a backbencher for almost all of the seven years since he became a Conservative MP.

But the married father of two was catapulted into the headlines when a picture emerged of him next to lines of white powder alleged to be cocaine and several women reported him to parliament’s harassment watchdog.

He is said to have insisted he had “enormous amounts of defence”, though faces sitting as an independent MP after having the Conservative whip removed and has been urged by colleagues to stay away from the parliamentary estate.

Warburton turned heads around Westminster when he lost six stone in less than a year, having previously been classed as obese.

He said he had “got a bit obsessed” with using a home gym during the first Covid lockdown, and won plaudits from then health secretary Matt Hancock for his newfound fitness fanaticism.

Multiple Tory MPs said that upon his return to Westminster, his reinvention seemed like a “mid-life crisis”.

“I don’t think anyone would ever have mistaken him for Theresa May but this is a lot more than people would have predicted,” says one MP

But when the allegations about his behaviour emerged, colleagues said they were shocked. They called him a “quiet one”, and those who had shared a drink with him on previous occasions said he had “seemed really nice”.

“I don’t think anyone would ever have mistaken him for Theresa May but this is a lot more than people would have predicted,” one said.

A neighbouring MP said he was a “very decent guy” and that in all their interactions with him, he had appeared “diligent and hard-working, not seedy or shifty”.

“He does keep himself to himself, he’s clearly not here to climb the ministerial pole,” the MP added.

Warburton was not a career politician. Born in Reading, he said he did shop work, cleaning, sandwich-selling and van driving.

He went on to graduate from the Royal College of Music – where he received a prestigious scholarship – with a degree in music composition, before being accepted for a doctorate at King’s College London and winning awards such as the Elgar Memorial Prize.

Warburton’s music was performed by ensembles including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Opera House. He also founded the Pulse youth orchestra and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

In his own youth, Warburton had been lead guitarist and a keyboard player in a succession of rock bands. And before becoming an MP, Warburton was a music teacher at a state school in London.

In fact, his most prominent role in the Commons has been as a keen chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music.

After moving on from music, he founded a business that allowed local independent retailers to offer their products online.

He did hold two junior ministerial aide roles under May’s administration, serving as a parliamentary private secretary in the business and education departments in 2018.

Because he was elected in 2015, Warburton was able to employ his wife as a communications officer and parliamentary assistant. Rules forbidding MPs from using taxpayers’ money to hire their spouses or other relatives as staff only came into effect from the following election.

Warburton backed Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative leadership election, and voted for Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum.


Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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