Ex-Hussar Sir Nicholas Winterton, staunch defender of the trough


Last updated at 01:09 03 February 2008

When it comes to standing up for MPs' allowances, the Tory squire and ex-Hussars officer Sir Nicholas Winterton is fond of going into battle.

Four years ago, he condemned attempts to prune MPs' benefits as "grotesquely unfair".

At the time, many of his colleagues were embarrassed by mileage rates as high as 57.7p, but the Macclesfield MP vainly voted to preserve them.

Knighted in 2002 for his services to Parliament, he also manned the barricades over the fight to prevent MPs' correspondence being subject to Freedom of Information requests.

Now approaching his 70th birthday, Sir Nicholas is one half of a husband-and-wife duo in the Commons.

They are much mocked by Labour, not least for the politically incorrect sense of humour of Lady Winterton, as she is entitled to be known.

In 2002, Ann Winterton was sacked as Tory farming spokesman for telling a joke that involved an Englishman throwing a Pakistani out of a train.

Two years later, she was sacked again – this time from the Tory Party at Westminster itself – for a joke referring to the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay.

She was reinstated by Michael Howard, the then Tory leader, after saying she "deeply regretted" the remark.

Famously, at the time of the 2002 row, Sir Nicholas gallantly defended her, insisting she was not a racist and telling reporters: "Would you condemn your wife? I will not condemn my wife."

The couple, who married in 1960, have two sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren.

Sir Nicholas was privately educated at Rugby School before doing National Service in Germany with the 14th/20th King's Hussars, where he was a Second Lieutenant.

Before entering the Commons in a by-election in Macclesfield in 1971, he worked as a trainee sales executive for Shell-Mex and BP, and then as a general manager for a construction company.

He is a keen all-round sportsman and an honorary vice-president of the Royal College of Midwives.

Now one of the longest-serving MPs, Sir Nicholas has never risen to a frontbench role but has carved out a classic backbench career, becoming a vice-chairman of the Tories' 1922 Committee.

As befits an old-school Conservative, Sir Nicholas – who backed David Davis in the 2005 party leadership contest – appeared dismayed at the prospect of being led by David Cameron.

After Tory MPs voted heavily in favour of Mr Cameron, Sir Nicholas emerged from the secret ballot to declare: "If I had known what I think is going to happen now, I would have bloody well stood myself and the party would have known what it was going to get."

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now