| 11.1°C Belfast

Woodward’s sharp blast as Cameron prepares to visit Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward launched a devastating attack on David Cameron ahead of his visit to the province, warning voters they were “sleep-walking into a living nightmare”.

Mr Woodward, who defected from the Tories in 2001, said Mr Cameron was a “very divisive figure” who posed a “terrible risk” to Britain. He conceded Labour was the “underdog” in the General Election, but insisted it was the only party that could secure economic recovery.

He told Sky News' Sunday Live: “What matters now is that people realise we are sleepwalking into a living nightmare — that nightmare is David Cameron's divided Britain.”

Mr Woodward, a key ally of Gordon Brown, became Labour MP for St Helens South in 2001 and his safe Tory seat in Witney was succeeded by Mr Cameron.

Believed to be the wealthiest member of the Cabinet, he admitted he would probably benefit from the Tory leader's proposed tax breaks.

Mr Woodward, who is married to Sainsbury's heiress Camilla, pointed to planned tax breaks on inheritance, for married couples and for banks.

“I'm somebody who, and people often make something of this, comes from a pretty well-off family,” he said.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

“I suppose I would benefit from David Cameron's reforms. I have to say, I don't want those reforms.

“I don't want an inheritance tax break in the knowledge that in my patch, in St Helens, tens of thousands of people may actually lose their jobs.”

He went on: “We always knew we were the underdog in this election — it's a very tough election.

“It's a very tough election for the governing party on the back of the biggest recession that we've had in our lifetimes. But indeed, that is what this election is all about — is Britain actually going to risk its economic recovery?”

Mr Woodward said his experience of working with former Prime Minister John Major in the 1992 election had shown him that polls were not necessarily indicative of the final result.

He had eventually left the Conservatives because the party had “abandoned any one-nation politics”, he said.

“I have to say David Cameron is a very divisive figure, he's not a one-nation Tory.

“In 1992, we saw the opinion polls were wholly wrong. On polling day they said that actually John Major would lose — in fact he had an eight point lead at the end of the day.”

He added: “My real worry, as I read the papers this morning, David Cameron talks about changing the face of Britain in a year.

“I think there is a very real prospect that we are walking into a living nightmare — a nightmare in which Britain may well be back into recession under the Tories because of their public spending cuts, people losing jobs.”

Local services such as police, health and education would be under threat across the country, he said. “What people have got to do in the next few days is really weigh up this terrible risk.

“The Tories propose to fundamentally reshape Britain and what that would mean is a divided Britain — it's not this one nation nonsense that Cameron's talking about, it's a divided Britain.”

Mr Woodward also warned that in Northern Ireland, there would be a “substantial risk to the peace process” if police services were cut.

Top Videos