Derek Draper death: Kate Garraway’s husband dies after devastating Covid battle, aged 56

Sir Tony Blair has led tributes to Derek Draper, who has died aged 56 after a heartbreaking battle with long Covid. Draper, a political lobbyist who later became a psychotherapist, was perhaps best known as the husband of TV presenter Kate Garraway.

Mr Blair described the Labour adviser as a ruthless political operative and “an important part of the New Labour story”.

Draper, who contracted the illness during the early stages of the pandemic, was rushed to hospital on Sunday 17 December after suffering a cardiac arrest that left him fighting for his life.

Garraway announced the death of “my darling husband” in a statement on Instagram on Friday 5 January. “I’m sad to have to tell you all that my darling husband Derek has passed away,” she wrote. “As some of you may know he has been critically ill following a cardiac arrest in early December which, because of the damage inflicted by Covid in March 2020, led to further complications.

“Derek was surrounded by his family in his final days and I was by his side holding his hand throughout the last long hours and when he passed. Sending so much love and thanks to all of you who have so generously given our family so much support. Rest gently and peacefully now Derek, my love, I was so lucky to have you in my life,” she wrote.

Replying to her post, Sir Elton John wrote: “So sorry to hear of this news, Kate. Love and thoughts to you and your family.”

Garraway and Draper, who got married in 2005, attended the singer’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour at the 02 Arena in London last April.

Mr Blair was among the New Labour era heavyweights leading tributes to Mr Draper, who worked for Peter Mandelson and set up the Progress organisation with Liam Byrne, who went on to become an MP.

Mr Blair said: “It is extraordinary and remarkable that Derek survived so long after the ravages of Covid. And that was in large measure due to the love Derek had for his family and they for him. This also says something very special about Derek.

“He was a tough, sometimes ruthless political operative, a brilliant adviser and someone you always wanted on your side. But underneath that tough exterior he was a loving, kind, generous and good-natured man you wanted as a friend.”

He added: “He was an important part of the New Labour story, at the centre of things right at the beginning. But most important of all, he was a good colleague and great friend. And we will miss him deeply.”

Another former Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, wrote: “I will remember him as brilliant, creative and multitalented, and our thoughts are with Kate, Darcey and Billy.”

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell described Draper as “a huge character”.

Lorraine Kelly described her ITV colleague as “strong and brave” in a statement shared on Instagram. She wrote: “This is just so sad. Our friend Kate Garraway has been so strong and brave. Thoughts with her and her children and family. She was right by his side until the end and did him proud. An astonishing woman.”

Born on 15 August 1967 in Chorley, Lancashire, Draper went to Southlands High School until 1984. He then attended Runshaw College in Leyland before studying at the University of Manchester.

His political career began in 1990, when he was appointed constituency secretary to Nick Brown, now a Labour Party veteran, who went on to serve as chief whip. He quit the job two years later and went to work as a researcher for Peter Mandelson. In 1996, Draper was made director of lobbying firm GPC Market Access, where he remained until early 1999.

During his career, he became involved in a scandal now known as “Lobbygate”, when he and Labour political organiser Jonathan Mendelsohn were caught on tape boasting that they could sell access to government ministers to create tax breaks for their clients.

Derek Draper watches as his wife Kate Garraway collects her MBE from Prince William (AP)
Derek Draper watches as his wife Kate Garraway collects her MBE from Prince William (AP)

After quitting politics, he went back to university and retrained as a psychotherapist, obtaining an MA in clinical psychology.

Garraway spent nearly four years caring for Draper after he was diagnosed with Covid in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. During the course of the illness, he was hospitalised and placed in a medically induced coma.

Draper was discharged from hospital more than a year after he was first admitted, returning home to Garraway and the couple’s two children, daughter Darcey and son Billy. He was readmitted on several occasions.

He developed sepsis in February 2022. This led to another prolonged stint in hospital, during which Garraway said he had taken an “unexpected and frightening turn for the worse” and that he was “fighting for his life”. Seven months later, the TV presenter shared another update about her husband’s health, revealing that he had again developed sepsis that “threatened his life”.

Garraway was awarded an MBE by the Prince of Wales in recognition for her services to journalism, broadcasting and charity, during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle in July last year. She captured the devastating and permanent impact long Covid can have in the incredibly moving documentary Finding Derek.

She said Draper had been the sickest person in the UK to survive Covid, adding that “unless you are up close to it, you don’t know what it’s like”. In the film, she narrated the story of the ordeal Derek and her family had endured since he became ill, as she reflected on what the future could hold for them.

Draper is survived by Garraway and their two children.