Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Trumpington
Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
28 September 1989 – 14 April 1992
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
13 June 1987 – 28 September 1989
Minister John MacGregor
John Gummer
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health & Social Security
In office
30 March 1985 – 13 June 1987
Sec. of State Norman Fowler
Preceded by The Lord Glenarthur
In office
22 April 1992 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Baroness-in-waiting to HM The Queen
In office
11 June 1983 – 25 March 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Mayor of Cambridge
In office
Preceded by Brian Cooper
Succeeded by Peter Wright
Personal details
Born Jean Alys Campbell-Harris
(1922-10-23) 23 October 1922 (age 95)
London, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative Party[1]
William Alan Barker (m. 1954)
Children Adam
Occupation Politician, Secretary

Jean Alys Barker, Baroness Trumpington DCVO PC (née Campbell-Harris; born 23 October 1922) is an English Conservative politician, a former member of the House of Lords.[2] From an aristocratic background, she was for years a socialite and mother, before deciding to enter the world of politics.

Early life[edit]

Trumpington was born to Major Arthur Campbell-Harris and his American wife, Doris (née Robson), an heiress of a Chicago paint manufacturer. Trumpington's father was an officer in the 7th Hariana Lancers, part of the Bengal Lancers, who became aide-de-camp to the Viceroy of India and knew David Lloyd George.

She took dancing lessons at Madame Vacani's school in Knightsbridge. After two years she moved to the Ballet Rambert to take up the opportunity to learn under ballerina Pear Argyle. Her mother had lost most of her inheritance in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, including selling their home at 55 Great Cumberland Place. On the family's return from India they lived in their house Rowling, Goodnestone, near Sandwich, Kent, where Doris specialised in interior decorating.[2] When war broke out, the house, which was owned by the Lunacy Commissioners, was needed for Army billets. Spring Grove was a Queen Anne-style ten-bedroom mansion at Wye, near Ashford in south Kent.[3]

Educated at Princess Helena College, Trumpington left school aged 15 having never taken an exam, although she was fluent in French, German and Italian. She then went to a finishing school in Paris to study art and literature.[2] Her father took her to holiday in Biarritz.

"I was a very good, left-handed tennis player. I had coaching all year round and there was serious talk of junior Wimbledon."

She spent a year at Montrichard receiving coaching from French tennis champion Jean Borotra. In Paris she stayed with Madame de Benouville, whose husband Jean was a member of the royalist group Action Française.

She had two brothers educated at Eton; the eldest, Alastair, was at Royal Naval College, Dartmouth when war broke out, so she was compelled to return to England.

Bletchley Park, World War II and its aftermath[edit]

Initially during World War II, Trumpington was attached to Lloyd George's Sussex arable farm, where she worked on the land with his daughter, lodging with his then secretary/mistress and later wife Frances Stevenson.[2] She then worked in naval intelligence at Bletchley Park from October 1940, making use of her knowledge of the German language to crack naval codes.[2][4][5]

She was billeted at Great Brickhill with W. J. Locke's family, before moving to Passenham Manor, home of banker George Ansley. Her work was the centre of Z codes supervised by German-Jewish refugee, Walter Ettinghausen. Colleagues who became life-long friends included Sally, daughter of 6th Lord Grantley (later Sarah Baring); Jean, daughter of James Graham, 6th Duke of Montrose (later Lady Jean Fforde[6]); and Osla Benning.

"Life only really began when I went to Bletchley. That's when I made my real friends, and it was exciting being a part of something important. We used to meet up in Claridge's, and throw bread at each other and sing and behave so badly. Five shillings was the most you could spend during the war, so it was as affordable as anywhere."[7]

At war's end, she spent four years working for the European Central Inland Transport Organization, shipping and distributing supplies to the war-torn continent with the same job description, filing clerk. But she was soon working as the effective transport manager from a 5th floor office in the Champs Elysées above Mimi Pinson's nightclub. She went to parties at the Ritz and Crillion Club, famously frequented by politicians. Resident at 1 Place d'Alma, she worked briefly for the suave British ambassador Duff Cooper, an old chum of Churchill's, whose wife, previously Lady Diana Manners, was a former actress she used to visit on Broadway. Lady Diana was courted by Ernie Bevin, the cabinet minister. She maintained a passion for tennis and French fashion.[8]

Moving in political circles, she returned to London to work for an imperial Conservative, Victor Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbroke. He found her offices in 17 Great College Street, but he was slightly drunk most of the time and inclined to nonchalance.[9] On inheriting the title, he was forced to leave Parliament, and so renounced his title to get elected an MP once more.

New York socialite[edit]

Trumpington decided to remove herself to America, travelling on board RMS Mauretania and arriving at New York on 28 January 1952.[10] She shared a flat above the Stork Club on East 52nd Street, off Park Avenue.[11] Having moved to she was able to secure a position with an advertising agency, Fletcher D Richards in the exclusive Rockefeller Plaza, off 5th Avenue. Shopping on 6th Avenue, she made friends with Riv Winant, son of a former American Ambassador to London; their friendship turned out to be long-term. They frequented haunts of wealthy high society New Yorkers such as the Round Hill Country Club, Greenwich, Connecticut, and the River Club of New York City, and the very exclusive private houses at East Hampton, Long Island, with membership of the exclusive Maidstone Club. Trumpington did not tolerate homosexual men at parties, but she was already interested in Republican politics. Fascinated by wealth, she got on the guest list of billionaire philanthropist, Walter Annenberg, a Jewish emigre. Ronnie Furse taught her to water-ski in the Chesapeake Bay.[12] For her, the physical prowess was unnecessary, but part of the tour. Working as a secretary, she moved into a flat on 137 East 73rd Street next to Furse.[13]

She subsequently met Englishman abroad William Alan Barker, a British Army officer, who was wounded in Normandy on 16 June 1944, and had lost an eye the year before at Monte Cassino. While working on the Harkness Commonwealth Fellowship in New York, he offered to bring her back to London.[14] She returned to Britain during the London Season and Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, and they were engaged in October 1953.[15] Trumpington left New York for the last time by liner on 15 December. She was forced to apply for a licence to the Solicitor-General to become the first couple in modern times to hold a wedding at the Chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, which took place on 18 March 1954.[2]

Wife, mother, socialite[edit]

Her husband was a Master at Eton College and later Headmaster of The Leys School in Cambridge between 1958 and 1975, before moving to University College School, London. She played host to the rich and famous, often travelling abroad to raise funds for The Leys from parents and old boys. They invited the local dignitaries Edward Heath MP and the Duchess of Kent with the Prime Minister of Singapore to an open day. In 1961, the Queen Mother came to tea, and then again to open an extension to buildings in 1973.

On the day that Harold Wilson resigned in 1970, she invited Heath to view the cricket pitches, which was reciprocated by a visit to No.10. Other royalty continued to attend from Bahrain and Tonga. She promoted the school with her own brand of conservatism, taking care of mental health and epilepsy in the school. With Eton's help they started a boat club, spent time at Cliveden and in 1962 included among their friends, the Astors.[16] The Macmillan era was rounded off with a world tour to drum up school business.

The couple had one son, Adam Campbell Barker born on 1 August 1955. Adam was educated at King's School, Canterbury and Queens' College, Cambridge where he was MA. He qualified as a solicitor and, later, as a barrister. He was married in 1985 to Elizabeth Mary, daughter of Eric Marsden OBE of Stourpaine Manor, Blandford.[2]

Conservative politics[edit]

Since 1945, Mother and Baby Homes (otherwise known as maternity homes) had been places for the poor to wean their offspring. She was appointed governor of the one in Cambridge, and moved to Cambridge where her voluntary work continued.[17] The United Cambridge Hospital Board, the Cambridge Social Services Committee, and the Cambridge Folk Museum all felt the glow of her patronage. She was a member of the Rheumatism and Arthritis Association, which began serious research work on debilitation at Cambridge laboratories. She gained public notoriety for personally tackling the 'Cambridge Rapist' in her own home, for whom the police had been searching for years without success; a burglar turned out to be the wanted felon masquerading as a door-to-door salesman calling himself MacFisheries.

She was elected city councillor for Trumpington on Cambridge City Council. After ten years, she became the Mayor of Cambridge, serving from 1971 to 1972, which she described as a "folderol". That office was followed by appointment to the Cambridge bench as a Justice of the Peace from 1972. She granted the Freedom of Cambridge to RAF Oakington, revived the town's market, installed a travel centre, and built an entrance hall to the railway station. She was best known for opening Elizabeth Bridge, the first across the Cam since medieval times, with former Conservative cabinet minister Rab Butler, High Steward of Cambridge University. She arranged to "twin" Cambridge with three other great university cities, Florence, Heidelberg, and Split. She raised funds for Addenbrooke's Hospital and the Indo-Pakistan War Relief Fund, and undertook a swimathon.

Before the local government and administration of justice re-organization, it was usual for the upper classes to sit on the bench as a matter of public duty. She re-entered politics in 1973, serving on the County Council for two years, resigning in 1975 over the rapist scandal.[2][18] She sought election to Parliament, and reached the short list for the Isle of Ely for the October 1974 election.[2] (Dr Thomas Stuttaford was selected instead and later lost to Clement Freud.) That year marked a watershed in her political career. Stepping up a gear, she moved into a visibly national profile: her son was by now fully grown and starting a career. Continuing a gradual move up the career ladder into public life, Barker matured into a serious-minded public figure; she was appointed to the Board of Visitors of the women's gaol attached to Pentonville Prison in London. She was one of the few who could get along well with the leader of her party, Margaret Thatcher.[19]

In addition, the former councillor for Trumpington was appointed by the Labour government to the Mental Health Tribunal, before community care had been introduced. The following year, 1976, she was made a General Commissioner for Taxes, based on a competent showing with the city's finances. She served on various public bodies, including chair of the Air Transport Users Committee (1979–80).[2] One of the first questions she asked in the Lords was about improving the airmail service, in which area she was regarded an expert.[20] The binding Official Secrets clause was repealed, privatisation followed, and profitability indexation restored to Air Mail services.[21]

Her interest in women's affairs became known for all the world to see when Thatcher became Prime Minister. Appointed as UK Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women it was her role to promote women's equality, marriage and divorce, healthcare, child-rearing, and human rights. She had an extensive address book in the United States; managing British interests on the Council in New York gave her a social profile that befitted her class status and ambition, but was nonetheless useful networking for the British Government.[22] Belated recognition came from a Labour peeress:

"On a different canvas, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, then UK representative at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, helped to unite the international voice of women through her irresistible humour and sense of fun. It was good to be so involved in those days."[23]

Sent by Thatcher to Copenhagen, she headed a delegation to UK's first female ambassador, Anne Warburton. At the UN she crossed the floor to greet Suzanne Mubarak, who made a brave speech for advancing peace in the Middle East.

Trumpington was a steward of Folkestone Racecourse (1980–92).[2] In 1980, she was made an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She was a member of the Farmers Club and Grillions Clubs in London.[24]

Ministerial office from the Lords[edit]

In almost her first debate she found herself on two sides of the same debate: discussing Clause no.23 amendment sponsored by Duke of Norfolk to Education bill no.2 1980.[25] In June 1983, she joined the Lords Works of Art Committee. She became a resident expert on the committee, where she sat until 2010.[26] On leaving the UN post and entering the House of Lords, she was introduced as a Baroness-in-waiting from 1983 to 1985. Thatcher recognised her capabilities when she was given a ministerial post. Despite being in the Lords as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Security from 1985 to 1987, during which time she smoked cigarettes, and in spite of a deep concern for women's mental health with numerous charities, she would in perpetuam champion the cause of smokers to do what they wanted.[27] A stubborn streak of wilful independence was typical of the Thatcherite in her, which she never lost up until her final verbatim speech in the Lords.[28]

Moving to the Ministry of Agriculture, which suited her temperament better than social security, at the height of the Thatcher boom period from 1987 to 1989, she was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary. She was promoted to number two at the ministry in 1989 when the Prime Minister was still creating hereditary peerages; she valued her friendship and support. She continued until 1992, serving during John Major's administration as Minister of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when at age 69 she was the oldest female minister ever.[2][18]

Her last role was as a Baroness-in-Waiting to the Queen again, from 1992 to 1997, when a change of government ended her career. Acting in the capacity as a whip and a courtier, she felt compelled to attend at the bedside of Sally Mugabe in a London Hospital; although Mugabe said later that he hated British men like Tony Blair for interference in Zimbabwe's affairs, he thanked their womenfolk. She also received the King of Afghanistan, who was without a realm, on behalf of The Queen. On several occasions during the 1990s, Trumpington became acquainted with the New Labour opposition leaders, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at Court. She was one of the few officials on hand in 1990 to recognise the new State of Mongolia, subsequently travelling to Ulan Bator to deal with KGB-backed Russian investors on a construction project.

The New Labour government therefore decided to appoint her an Extraordinary Baroness-in-Waiting from 1998, given her many years of experience at Court. During the Labour government, she was consistently on the side of traditionalists. She voted often in favour of university tuition fees and raising the cap to £9,000; opposed constitutional reform, telling the Lords that she believed in the first-past-the-post system; and against the ban on fox hunting. Trumpington was broadly in favour of Brexit, particularly the diminution of EU integration. She voted against the bill to make a referendum necessary to transfer powers back from EU to UK.[29] Trumpington remained a principled opponent of soft measures on crime. Consistently supportive of tough measures, she was appointed Trustee of Crimestoppers in 2004. This tied in closely with ongoing visitations to Pentonville Prison, as Crimestoppers' emphasis was specific to schoolchildren and youth offending. She opposed "walking free" and community sentencing; her disarming charm when discoursing about conditions in Britain's jails alerted the Lords perspective on the significance of public participation in crime reduction initiatives.[30]

Her sense of order, propriety and taste got her into trouble: mocked by a Labour peeress for commenting on the drab and dishevelled of the House of Lords, she has more than once appeared a martinet for insisting on "dress code".[31] On another occasion she gave a V-sign to Lord King of Bridgwater in the House of Lords, 10 November 2011 when he referred to her advanced age during a Remembrance Day debate.[2][32]

When she tried to debate the "plight of rural veterinary practices", the peeress pretended to be deaf: she had long railed against the most absurd forms of political correctness. In 2000-1, as if to emphasise her Tory roots, she was made President of the South of England Agricultural Show, taking the opportunity to promote animal health, a cause for which she had in 1995 been awarded an Honorary Membership of the British Veterinary Association, in response to her work in that ministry.[33] Declining rural practices was caused directly by the government's farming policies; the yawning gap between policy and practice exposed weaknesses in the EFRACOM report. She had initiated the debate on 24 June 2004, and was widely praised for so doing.[34] Throughout her career, she was notable for having raised uncomfortable truths about topics most politicians have avoided, such as the plight of women in prisons, or the fate of single mothers with mental health issues.

In December 2012, she acknowledged the campaign for the government to officially recognise the work of Alan Turing. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the signatories, including Stephen Hawking, the physicist; Lord Rees, the astronomer royal; and Sir Paul Nurse, the president of the Royal Society, called on Prime Minister David Cameron to support a pardon for Turing's 1952 conviction for homosexuality.[35] Trumpington worked at Bletchley Park during the war at the same time as Turing, commenting only on his presence. On one occasion she went into his office to hand over a document while he was sitting reading.[36]

She retired from the House of Lords on 24 October 2017, the day after she turned 95.[37]


Trumpington was awarded Officier de l'Ordre Nationale du Mérite by the French Republic.[18]

On 4 February 1980 she was created a life peer, choosing the title Baroness Trumpington, of Sandwich in the County of Kent.[2][38] She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 2005.[2][39] Leaving government she was granted an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath). Two years later she was recognised for her voluntary activities as Honorary Associate of the Royal College of Volunteer Services (ARCVS).[citation needed]


As a castaway on Desert Island Discs in 1990 she chose as her luxury item the Crown Jewels in order to maximise her chances of being rescued.[40] In 2011 she published a long-awaited jaunty memoir, Coming Up Trumps. Reluctant to publicise her life which she described as "of no interest to anyone", she was nevertheless persuaded in the preface by huge demands from her friends and colleagues to have a ghost-written autobiography.[41]

On 30 November 2012 Trumpington was a guest panellist on the BBC TV's satirical news quiz Have I Got News for You; at the age of 90 she was the oldest guest to have appeared on the programme. In December 2013 she was a guest on BBC Three chat show Backchat with Jack and Michael Whitehall. In 2014 she was a guest judge in the finals of the Great British Menu.

At the end of December 2017, she was one of the guest editors for BBC Radio 4's prestigious Today programme. Topics she chose to highlight included her long-standing campaign to legalise brothels; Sangita Myska was tasked with interviewing a brothel keeper, a sex worker, and a woman who had escaped the sex industry. Another topic was living with incurable diseases such as Crohn's. John Humphrys interviewed her about her life and career, when she credited good luck for much of her success. [42]

Later life[edit]

Trumpington was widowed in 1988.[2] In later interviews with The Guardian she described enjoying her grandchildren Christopher Adam (b.1989) and Virginia Giverny (b.1987). She also enjoys contract bridge, needlepoint and horse racing,[18]

Trumpington lived in Battersea. Late one evening in January 2010, while she was out, her flat caught fire; her possessions were badly damaged.[2]

Titles, Styles, Honours and Arms[edit]

  • 1922–1954 Miss Jean Campbell-Harris
  • 1954–1961 Mrs Jean Barker
  • 1961–1972 Cllr Jean Barker
  • 1980–1992 The Right Honourable The Baroness Trumpington
  • 1992–2005 The Right Honourable The Baroness Trumpington PC
  • 2005– The Right Honourable The Baroness Trumpington DCVO PC

Her full title after 2005 is The Right Honourable Jean Alys Barker, Baroness Trumpington, Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Baronness Trumpington". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Grice, Elizabeth (14 August 2012). "Baroness Trumpington: 'At my age I don't give a damn what I say'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Memoirs, pp.12, 14, 17, 21–2.
  4. ^ McKay, Sinclair (2010). The Secret Life of Bletchley Park. Aurum. pp. 60,125–6. ISBN 978-1-84513-539-3. 
  5. ^ Bletchley Park Code Breakers — Baroness Trumpington on YouTube Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Obituary: Lady Jean Fforde, aristocrat said to have auctioned off an earldom to pay for central heating". Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  7. ^ "The enigmatic life of Lady Trumpington". The Guardian. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Memoirs, p.71
  9. ^ see: Antony Colville Diaries
  10. ^ Memoirs, pp.98–9
  11. ^ Memoirs, p.100
  12. ^ Memoirs, p.107, 116.
  13. ^ Memoirs, pp.110–11
  14. ^ Memoirs, p.118.
  15. ^ New York Herald, 22 October 1953; New York Times, 22 October 1953; The Times, 2 November 1953
  16. ^ Trumpington, p.162
  17. ^ Trumpington, pp.177–8
  18. ^ a b c d "The Rt Hon the Baroness Trumpington, DCVO, PC". Debrett's. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  19. ^ Andy Walker. "Baroness Trumpington profile: From Lloyd George to the Lords". BBC News, 11 November 2014
  20. ^ Lord Trenchard said "like Lady Trumpington's expert knowledge in relation to air mail". HL Deb 30 April 1980 vol 408 cc1284-333 Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  21. ^ HL Deb 30 April 1980 vol 408 cc1284-333, Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  22. ^ Burke's Peerage, 107th edition, vol.III.
  23. ^ Baroness Lockwood: HL Deb 23 November 2004 vol 667 cc5-20. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  24. ^ Burke's 107th ed. (London 2003), vol.III, p.1949
  25. ^ HL Deb 13 March 1980 vol 406 cc1206-78. Retrieved 22 July 2016
  26. ^ Lords Works of Art
  27. ^ Retrieved 22 July 2016
  28. ^ Weds 15 March 2005, Hansard01 see also: Hansard HL Deb 09 March 2005 vol 670 cc727-9
  29. ^ Retrieved 7 July 2016
  30. ^ HL Deb 08 December 2004 vol 667 cc903-56. Retrieved on 22 July 2016
  31. ^ Baroness Billingham HL Deb 23 November 2004 vol 667 cc5-20 Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  32. ^ "House of Lords' V-sign makes X-rated viewing". Media Monkey Blog. The Guardian (London). 14 November 2011.
  33. ^ Trumpington, p.210
  34. ^ HL Deb 24 June 2004 vol 662 cc1391-406 Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  35. ^ Ben Summerskill. "Pardoning Alan Turing is a pointless exercise". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  36. ^ "Baroness Trumpington, THAT two-finger gesture and how she scared off PM who dared touch her up". Mail Online. 27 September 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  37. ^ "Baroness Trumpington". UK Parliament. 
  38. ^ "No. 48091". The London Gazette. 7 February 1980. p. 1977. 
  39. ^ "No. 57665". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2005. p. 3. 
  40. ^ "Desert island Discs". 
  41. ^ Jean Trumpington, Coming UP Trumps: A Memoir, London: Macmillan, 2011
  42. ^ "Today". BBC Radio 4. 29 December 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-29. 
  43. ^

External links[edit]