Former Labour MP and No.10 aide John Woodcock has been appointed as the government’s new envoy on countering far-right and Islamist extremism.
Whitehall sources confirmed the move to HuffPost UK after Woodcock, who worked for Gordon Brown, announced he would not be standing in the general election.
He is the third ex-Labour backbencher to take a post from the Conservative government, with John Mann its anti-Semitism czar and Ian Austin its trade envoy to Israel.
Woodcock, who has represented Barrow in Furness since 2010, had planned to stand as an independent in the December 12 poll.
But he revealed on Twitter he and his partner are expecting their first child and he felt that his life “has to change”.
Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer said in September that the rise of the far right is the fastest-growing terrorist threat in the UK.
Met assistant commissioner Neil Basu said police and MI5, which since 2018 has taken the lead on the most serious extreme rightwing plots, were carrying out 80 investigations to stop violence fuelled by ideologies such as white supremacism and Islamophobia.
In a statement, Woodcock said he was “honoured to be asked” to contribute to the government’s counter terror strategy, which will include tackling the issue of the far-right and also returning ‘foreign fighters’ from regions like Syria.
“As a backbench MP, I have long argued that the UK must rise to the security challenges posed by far right extremism and radicalised British nationals returning from Jihad in foreign conflict zones.
“This role represents a great opportunity to make the case for the security alliances that keep our citizens safe and to explore how the UK can learn from global best practice in countering the violent extremism spread both by Islamists and re-emerging far right terror groups.”
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “John Woodcock will bring a range of skills and experience to the role and I am delighted he has accepted this position.”
In his letter to constituents, Woodcock said it had been the “greatest honour” of his life representing the area for nine-and-a-half years but the “unexpected but wonderful piece of news” meant he couldn’t stay in the seat.
Woodcock, whose two daughters live with his ex-wife in Edinburgh, wrote: “I cannot in good conscience promise to combine being the dad my girls need in Edinburgh, the committed public servant you deserve in Furness, and also bring up a baby in London where (Ms Hardman) works as a journalist.
“Something has to give, and I must put my family first.”
He added: “As your MP, I have never shied away from speaking out and going against the grain where necessary, no matter how much hot water that has got me into over the years.”
Woodcock quit Labour with a scathing attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership last year, saying the party leader would pose a “clear risk to UK national security as prime minister”.
He had been sitting as an independent since having the Labour whip withdrawn in April 2018 pending investigation of an allegation of sexual harassment.
He denies allegations over supposedly inappropriate texts and emails to a former female staff member between 2014 and 2016.