Madeline Sophia "Maddy" Woods (b. October 3, 1977) is a former Georgeland Conservative politician. She was Leader of the Opposition from 2015 to 2018, and Member of the House of Commons for Enfield from 2002 to 2019.A leader of the party's moderate faction, Woods' leadership was initially successful and saw the party surge in the polls. The Tories were defeated at the 2016 general election, though they made significant gains, and again in 2017. After the 2017 election, Woods was subjected to criticism from within her own party on failing to capitalise on the appointment of Campbell Rhodes, the Prime Minister's husband, as President, and for running a lacklustre campaign. She was the target of several high-profile, damaging leaks concerning her private life and political judgement.
In 2018, Woods was replaced as leader by Michael Armstrong in a coup orchestrated by the party's right-wing faction. She resigned from the Tories to sit as an independent. At the 2019 election, she was narrowly defeated in Enfield by Reform candidate Simone Khan .
Early life & education
Woods was born in Enfield, a wealthy suburb of Santa Christina, and has lived in the area her whole life. Her father David was, and remains, a small business operator who ran a real estate company and later an insurance firm. Her mother, Barbara, was a doctor. Woods has three older sisters.
Woods was educated at Enfield Girls' Grammar and the University of Santa Christina. She was studying at USC as an economics undergraduate when she joined the local Conservative Students Club, and was elected president of the USC student body in 2001. She worked part-time in retail, and later for the city council, while studying and remained at university to do a Masters degree. While studying for her masters she became more active in campus politics and was recruited as the Tory candidate for Enfield for the 2002 election.
Woods was elected for Enfield with a majority of 2073 votes, and 57% of the vote. She replaced Steven Stackman, who had been MP since 1962. Aged 25, she was the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Commons to that time and quickly became seen as a high-flyer.
In 2005, she was appointed to the Opposition front bench as Shadow Minister for Arts and Communications. Young, dynamic, attractive and vibrant, Woods was often called the "Tory Glamour Girl" and appears from time to time in photo shoots that showcase her difference from other Conservative politicians. In 2006, she became the first sitting MP to be photographed for Vogue. She made multiple appearances on GBC comedy program Here Isn't the News, including two as guest host, between 2005 and 2010.
Following the Conservative victory in the 2007 election, Woods was made Minister for Sport, Tourism and Youth. She was and remains the youngest member of the federal ministry and the youngest woman ever to hold a ministerial portfolio.
In March 2009, Woods was promoted into Cabinet as Environment Minister. At the age of 31, Woods became the second-youngest-ever Cabinet Minister (at 31 years, 4 months, she was three months older than Campbell Rhodes on his appointment to Cabinet in 1994). She is the youngest woman to have served in Cabinet.
When the Tories lost office in 2010 , Woods denied any interest in the leadership, and was appointed Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Resources by new leader James Bradford, and retained it under subsequent leader Matthieu Solberg.
In December 2014, Woods resigned from the Conservative front bench in protest at the party's opposition to the Carbon Pricing Commission, a new body establisged by the Porter government. The party's leader, Lisa Chan , was a climate change skeptic, something she shared with a considerable section of the party. Woods made a speech attacking Chan and the Tory "dinosaurs" who opposed action on climate change, which was highly-regarded and made international headlines.
Polls continued to show the Tories well behind the government, and Chan's approval ratings were lower than either of her predecessor's. Despite Woods' stance on climate change and other social issues, considerable movement inside the party grew for her to become leader in order to make the Tories more appealing and attract new voters, and to "modernise" the party, something Woods has long claimed as a goal. On January 28, after another disastrous poll showing the Tories would be reduced to a rump were an election held that week, Woods announced she would challenge Chan for the leadership, in the first ever contest between two women for leadership of the Conservatives. Woods defeated Chan, and became Leader of the Opposition.
At 37, Woods was the youngest person to lead the Conservatives. Woods first action upon becoming leader was to declare "all policies on the table" and pledged that the Tory Party would be "turning over a new page" in its history. She subsequently declared she was "not wedded" to many Tory traditions, up to and including the party's name. Woods also spoke of trying to bring the Georgeland Alliance into the fold, saying the radical centre should be the Conservative Party's domain.
In her first poll as Opposition Leader, Woods achieved an approval rating of 53%, and trailed Lawrence Porter as Preferred Prime Minister by only nine points, 54% to 45%. Her first poll as leader also showed the Tories with 47.6% of the two-party vote, an increase of seven over Chan's last result.
In late 2015, Deborah Rhodes became Prime Minister, and for the first time women were leaders of both major parties in the House of Commons.
2016 and 2017 elections
In 2016, Woods led her party to the general election while pregnant with her fourth child. The election saw Woods and the Tories make moderate gains, winning twenty seats and a vote increase of 7%. This put the Conservatives in a strong position, and commentators spoke of the potential for Woods to lead the party to a victory in three years time. In mid-2017, the Martingate scandal engulfed Georgeland politics as Rhodes attempted, and ultimately succeeded, in appointing her husband to the vacant presidency. After the first confirmation vote was defeated and the government lost a motion of no-confidence, Woods welcomed the second general election and campaigned on a theme of removing the government and restoring confidence from markets and citizens.
During the 2017 election campaign, three damaging leaks caused difficulty for Woods and her leadership. The first was that she had had an affair with a Conservative staffer; the Liberal Democrats refused to comment on it, but several Tory MPs gave anonymous interviews in which they attacked Woods privately. Speaking on the matter in 2019, after leaving parliament, Woods said she had been subjected to "slut-shaming" and said the scandal was manufactured by misogynistic members of her own party. More damaging were two subsequent leaks late in the campaign suggesting Woods' avowed plans to act on climate change would be shelved after the election, and cited a meeting and a phone conversation she had had with right-wingers suggesting the plan be abandoned after taking power to placate climate deniers.
The Conservative vote and seat count went backwards, in part due to a higher than usual vote for the Green Party , resulting in preferences directed to the government. Woods was challenged after the election by right-winger Adam Eckles and former leader Matthieu Solberg - she defeated Eckles 63 votes to 61.
Resignation and defeat
During 2017 and 2018, the MeTooGate scandal was the dominant narrative in Georgeland political circles, with several high-profile cases of sexual harassment against women by male parliamentarians. Most of these were Conservatives. At an unprecedented joint press conference in January 2018, Rhodes and Woods declared a "zero-tolerance" policy for harassment within the parliament and set up a parliamentary committee to investigate claims against many MPs, a great number of whom resigned. Several of the resignations resulted in a Conservative loss, mostly to the Georgeland Alliance. While Woods' personal popularity was moderately high, polls almost universally showed the Tories in an unelectable position.
On 21 May 2018, Woods resigned as leader after weeks of speculation. She later said that she was under "daily barrage" from right-wingers, all of them male, and said many of her colleagues felt betrayed by the committee investigating sexual assault, and believed they were being personally targeted. Woods denied any targeting of right-wingers, but said it was "no coincidence" most of the figures forced to resign by the affair were Conservative men.
Woods was replaced as leader by Michael Armstrong. She declined an offer to serve on the front bench and on June 16, the last sitting day before the winter break, announced her resignation from the Tory Party. She said she took no pleasure in it, but had realised the party had nothing to offer her or other women, and that it was dominated by "a certain kind of male figure who can take neither criticism nor no for an answer". There was considerable speculation Woods would join the new party, Reform, which had taken in several ex-Tories, but she said on October 2 that she intended to contest the next election as an Independent.
Woods was defeated by Simone Khan at the 2019 election. She finished first with 38.7% of the vote, but preferences from the Liberal Democrat candidate saw her defeated by 1,722 votes.
In September 2019, Woods was named to the board of the Womens' Leadership Forum.
Woods has always held moderate, socially liberal views. She has spoken in favour of abortion and stem cell research, and supported same-sex marriage (although she followed the party line and voted against it). She is a strong advocate for action on climate change, which she said contributed to her downfall (although her successor Armstrong was also known for environmental causes).
In 2019, Woods said she never felt like a natural fit for the Conservatives, and said if she wanted to return to politics she would "find the party that was a better match".
Woods' partner has been solicitor Roy Joseph since 2003. They have four children; Anna Rose (b. May 2007), Nicola Jasmine (b. Feb 2010), Thomas Patrick (b. July 2012) and Mark Adam (b. August 2016).