Barbara Follett (politician)

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Barbara Follett
Barbara Follett.jpg
Minister for Local Government
In office
22 September 2009 – 6 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Succeeded by Andrew Stunell
Minister for Culture and Tourism
In office
4 October 2008 – 22 September 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Margaret Hodge
Succeeded by Margaret Hodge
Member of Parliament
for Stevenage
In office
1 May 1997 – 6 May 2010
Preceded by Tim Wood
Succeeded by Stephen McPartland
Personal details
Born Daphne Barbara Hubbard
(1942-12-25) 25 December 1942 (age 71)
Kingston, Jamaica
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Richard Turner 1963
Gerald Stonestreet
Les Broer
Ken Follett
Residence London, Hertfordshire, Cape Town and Antigua
Alma mater London School of Economics
Open University
Website http://www.barbara-follett.org.uk/

Daphne Barbara Follett (née Hubbard, born 25 December 1942) is a former British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Stevenage from 1997 until 2010. During this time she served in several parliamentary and ministerial positions. She also played a major part in transforming the image of the Labour Party in the early 1990s, primarily though practical steps to increase the number of women MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party. She was a highly notable case in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal having overclaimed the highest amount of expenses of any MP in the country.[1]

Background[edit]

She was born Daphne Barbara Hubbard in Kingston, Jamaica, where her father (originally from Manchester, UK) was an insurance executive. In 1946 the family returned to Britain, first to Jersey then in 1947 to Billericay, Essex. In 1952 the family moved to Ethiopia where her father set up the country’s first insurance company in partnership with Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1957 after an unfortunate incident involving her alcoholic father, a toast and a drinks trolley,[2] the family were asked to leave the country and went to Cape Town in South Africa. She began a University degree in Art, but in 1962 had to give it up and started work with Barclays Bank.

She married Richard Turner in 1963 and they moved to Paris where Turner studied for his doctorate and she taught at the Berlitz School of Languages (1963–64). In 1964 her first daughter, Jann, was born. They returned to South Africa in 1966 to run his mother's fruit farm in Stellenbosch, where they had their second daughter, Kim. In 1969, after experiencing first-hand the hardships of life for farm workers in rural South Africa, she started working for Kupugani (Zulu for "uplift yourself"), an organisation that provided cheap food for the poor which bought and processed agricultural surplus and then sold it cheaply to poor families. It also provided basic health and education.

In 1970, on the breakdown of her marriage Follett moved back to Cape Town and became acting Regional Secretary at the Institute of Race Relations. She worked again for Kupugani from 1971 to 1978, first as Regional Manager for the Cape and South-West Africa (now Namibia) – then as National Health Education Director (1975–78).

After a brief marriage to Gerald Stonestreet, she married architect Les Broer. In January 1978 her ex-husband Richard Turner, a prominent anti-apartheid activist, was assassinated. Three months later, Barbara, who was then running the Women’s Movement for Peace was told that she too was about to be "banned". She and her children fled to England and lived in Farnham, Surrey. Barbara found work as Assistant Course Organiser and lecturer on Africa for the Farnham-based Centre for International Briefing (1980–84) and joined the local Labour Party.[2]

Political career[edit]

Follett stood as Labour candidate for Woking in the 1983 general election, but was not elected. In 1985 she married author Ken Follett. From 1984 to 1992 she was a freelance lecturer and consultant, contesting Epsom and Ewell for Labour in 1987, again unsucessfully. Unhappy with the inequalities that women faced in public life, Follett joined the Fawcett Society and the National Alliance of Women's Organisations and jointly founded the Labour Women's Network in 1987, on whose Steering Committee she has served ever since.

Inspired by women in the US, Follett imported the idea of EMILYs List, a fundraiser for women Democrat candidates, into Britain for the Labour Party. She became the Director of EMILY’s List UK in 1993. The organisation has since backed more than 80 women seeking selection. During this period she obtained a BSc (Econ) in Economic History from the London School of Economics. She was selected as the candidate in Stevenage (1995) before her postgraduate course could get under way. She concentrated instead on work as Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Public Policy Research (1993–97).

Follett is also an alumnus of the Open University and she has since become a patron of Action on Pre-Eclampsia.

In Parliament[edit]

The 1997 General Election saw Follett elected as MP for Stevenage. In Parliament she went on the Select Committee on International Development, as well as becoming Chair of the All Party Retail Industry Group; Chair of the Eastern Group of Labour MPS; Chair of the Eastern Region of Labour Movement in Europe; Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Film Industries Group; a member of Labour’s backbench Treasury Committee; Joint Secretary of the Population, Development and Reproductive Health Group; and Treasurer of the Sex Equality Group. She is also a member of the Fabian Society.

In May 1999, Barbara became a member of the Britain in Europe Council, and served on the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons. In June 2005, she was elected as Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) Women’s Committee. In November 2005, she became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tessa Jowell.

In June 2007 she was appointed to become Minister for the East of England, and, in October 2007, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Equality, supporting the Minister for Women and Equalities, Harriet Harman, with a particular role in drafting the government’s equality legislation. She then went on to serve as Minster for Culture, Tourism and the Creative Industries between October 2008 and September 2009, before finally serving as Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government until May 2010.

Following the controversy generated by the public disclosure of her expenses Follett announced her decision to stand down at the 2010 general election on 1 October 2009.[3] She cited a desire to spend more time with her family as her motivation for standing down.

Election Results since 1997[edit]

Election Constituency Party Votes (%) Position
General 1997 Stevenage Labour 28,440 (55.3%) 1
General 2001 Stevenage Labour 22,025 (51.9%) 1
General 2005 Stevenage Labour 18,003 (42.9%) 1

Parliamentary Positions[edit]

  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (Sept 2009 - May 2010)
  • Minister for Culture, Tourism and the Creative Industries (Oct 2008 - Sept 2009)
  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Equality (Oct 2007 - Oct 2008)
  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (June 2007 - Oct 2008)
  • Minister for the East of England (June 2007 - May 2010)
  • Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (May 2006 - June 2007)
  • Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Women (June 2005 - May 2006)

Organisations[edit]

Barbara Follett is a member of, and active in, a number of organisations:[4]

  • Action on Pre-eclampsia - a UK based charity set up in 1991. It helps and supports women worldwide who have had or who are worried about pre-eclampsia (preeclampsia), eclampsia, HELLP Syndrome or pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH).
  • AMICUS
  • ACTSA - Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) campaigns with the people of Southern Africa as they strive to build a better future.
  • Charter 88
  • CPAG
  • EMILY’s List UK - launched on 6 February 1993, this gives women Labour Party members the financial support they need to be selected as Parliamentary candidates.
  • Fabian Society
  • Fawcett Society
  • Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform
  • Labour Women’s Network - Encouraging women to come forward as UK parliamentary candidates.
  • Liberty (pressure group)
  • National Alliance of Women’s Organisations - an umbrella organisation for over 100 organisations and individuals based in England.
  • One World Action
  • Royal Society of Arts
  • SERA
  • Stevenage Credit Union - The Credit Union is used by local people to save money and also to borrow money up to £5,000 at a reasonable rate of interest.
  • The Socialist Environmental Research Association
  • Stonewall

Brass Eye[edit]

In 2001, Follett appeared in the television satire programme Brass Eye, in a special which satirised media hysteria towards the issue of paedophilia. In the programme, she was duped into giving fake warnings about an online game called "Pantu the dog", claiming on camera that a paedophile had converted the dogs eye into a webcam in order to see the child player. Follett went on to demonstrate how the paedophile would wear a t-shirt with a small illustration of a child's body on it in order to disguise themselves as another child, as well as how the paedophiles get children to press their faces against the screen, using special gloves to touch them.[5] Follett complained to the BSC and ITC about being duped into appearing into the programme. The BSC noted that the programme makers had deliberately given warning signals to suggest the material might be dubious and thus rejected Follett's complaints against the show as it successfully revealed the dangers of how public figures were willing to speak "with apparent authority about matters they do not understand".[6]

Expenses controversies[edit]

In May 2008 following the release of details of MPs expenses it emerged that the taxpayer had paid in excess of £1,600 for window cleaning of Follett's London flat in a single year.[7] Further still, the invoices for the work were addressed to her husband.[8]

In May of the following year, The Daily Telegraph alleged that she claimed more than £25,000 for private security patrols at her London home after she was mugged.[9] Follett was also criticised for claiming £120,000 in expenses from the taxpayer over 6 years to pay for a London flat when she already owned one property in the capital. Additionally, commuting to London from her main home in Stevenage takes less than 30 minutes by rail.[10] It was also revealed that Follett had claimed £528.75 to repair and clean a Chinese rug, though only £300 of the claim was actually accepted as the amount was deemed excessive.[11]

In February 2010, following a review of all MP's expenses it was revealed that Follett had claimed more in dubious expenses than any other MP. This led some newspapers to brand her "The Expenses Queen".[12] Additional items she was ordered to repay included £4,454 for having six phone lines at her property and £2,812 for insuring her fine art collection.[12] Follet also claimed twice for boiler insurance and for pest control at a property which wasn't actually her second home.[1]

Follett had initially insisted all her claims were justified, but following significant criticism she changed her position and agreed to repay £32,976 for the security patrols and other similarly extravagant claims.[13] The rest of the money she owed was repaid later.[1] Follett apologised, stating "I did try to act as honestly as possible but where I failed, I am sorry".[14]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to Ken Follett and since leaving Parliament she has become CEO of his company, who have offices in Stevenage.[15] They own two properties in London, one in Knebworth, a property in Cape Town and a holiday home in Antigua.[10][16] She has two daughters, Jann and Kim.[17]

Follett and her husband have been referred to as champagne socialists in the media due to the alleged contrast between their political views and their extravagant lifestyle.[18] She is also well known for pioneering presentation training in the Labour Party, teaching senior Labour figures the science of colour and some of the requirements of a TV and fashion conscious age. So closely associated was she with this smartening-up of Labour that it has been called "Folletting".[19] With husband, Ken, she has helped raise substantial funds for the Labour Party. Her other interests include Scrabble, photography and Star Trek.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "MP Follett to repay largest sum". BBC News. 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  2. ^ a b "Barbara Follett official biography". 2009-10-09. 
  3. ^ Kirkup, James (2009-10-01). "Barbara Follett steps down as MP in wake of expenses disclosures". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  4. ^ http://www.barbara-follett.org.uk/biography/memberships.html
  5. ^ "brass eye pedophile special. iternet stalkers". YouTube. 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  6. ^ Deans, Jason (2002-01-31). "MP loses Brass Eye battle | Media | MediaGuardian". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  7. ^ "Daily Telegraph article on Follett's expenses". London: Telegraph.co.uk. 2008-05-24. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  8. ^ Max Hastings (2008-05-26). "These expense claims mean we must call time on parliament's petty fiddling". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  9. ^ Beckford, Martin (2009-05-08). "Daily Telegraph article on Follett's expenses". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  10. ^ a b UngoedThomas, Jon; Watt, Holly (2007-10-28). "Buy-to-let Barbie cashes in on MPs' housing perk". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  11. ^ Firth, Niall (2009-10-02). "Barbara Follett to stand down as Labour MP following row over £25,000 expenses claim for private security". Daily Mail (London). 
  12. ^ a b Wright, Stephen; Chapman, James (2010-02-05). "Shaming of the 389 greedy MPs who went too far". Daily Mail (London). 
  13. ^ Kirkup, James (2009-10-01). "Barbara Follett steps down as MP in wake of expenses disclosures". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  14. ^ http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/02/05/the-374-fiddlers-115875-22019777/
  15. ^ "Still in the duck house? Life after the expenses row". London: Independent. 2010-11-11. Archived from the original on 12 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  16. ^ Firth, Niall. "Barbara Follett to stand down as Labour MP following row over £25,000 expenses claim for private security". Daily Mail (London). 
  17. ^ Walker, Tim (2009-09-30). "Barbara Follett, the original Blair babe, 'preparing to quit the Commons'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  18. ^ Jones, George (2001-06-19). "How Blair's New Labour went flat for champagne socialists". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  19. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-red-brigade-1570130.html

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Timothy Wood
Member of Parliament for Stevenage
1997–2010
Succeeded by
Stephen McPartland
Political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Hodge
Minister for Culture and Tourism
2008–2009
Succeeded by
Margaret Hodge
Preceded by
Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Minister for Local Government
2009–2010
Succeeded by
Andrew Stunell