Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
The Baroness Trumpington
Mayor of Cambridge
In office
Preceded by Brian Cooper
Succeeded by Peter Wright
Baroness-in-waiting to HM The Queen
In office
11 June 1983 – 25 March 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
In office
22 April 1992 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
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
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
13 June 1987 – 28 September 1989
Minister John MacGregor
John Gummer
Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
28 September 1989 – 14 April 1992
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Personal details
Born Jean Alys Campbell-Harris
(1922-10-23) 23 October 1922 (age 94)
London, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative Party[1]
Spouse(s) 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 politician, a Conservative 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. Her 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 another 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, near Sandwich, Kent, where Doris specialised in interior decorating.[2]

Educated at Princess Helena College she left school aged 15 having never taken an exam, although she was fluent in French, German and Italian. They then moved to Spring Grove, at Wye in Kent. In 1937 was sent 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 champion Jean Borotra. In Paris she stayed with Madame de Benouville, whose husband Jean was a member of the royalist group Action Francaise. She had two brothers educated at Eton; the eldest Alastair was at RNC Dartmouth when war broke out, so she was compelled to return to England.

New York socialite[edit]

Initially during World War II she was attached to Lloyd George's Sussex arable farm, lodging with his then secretary/mistress and later wife Frances Stevenson, she worked on the land with his daughter.[2] She then worked in naval intelligence at Bletchley Park from 1941, making use of her knowledge of the German language to crack naval codes.[2][3][4]

She was billeted at Great Brickhill with W. J. Locke's family, before moving to Passenham Manor, home of the wealthy banker George Ansley. Her work was the centre of Z codes supervised by German-Jewish refugee, Walter Ettinghausen. One of her colleagues was Sarah, daughter of 6th Lord Grantley as well as Osla Benning and Jean Graham, who became lifelong friends. Sally Grantley was a friend of Max Beaverbrook, who knew of her connection with Lloyd George, and his with Churchill.

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.[5]

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 Elysee above Mimi Pinson's night club. 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, Lady Diana Rutland, a former actress she used to visit on Broadway. Lady Diana was courted by Ernie Bevin, the cabinet minister. She maintaied a passion for tennis and French fashion.

Moving in political circles she returned to London to work for an imperial Conservative Viscount Hinchingbroke. He found her offices in 17 Great College Street, but Hinchingbroke was slightly drunk most of the time and inclined to nonchalance.[6] On inheriting the title he was forced to leave parliament, and so renounced his title to get elected an MP once more.

She decided to remove herself to America, travelling on board RMS Mauretania and arriving at New York on 28 January 1952. She lived above the Stork Club on East 52nd Street, off Park Avenue. Shopping on 16th 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 Anneberg, a Jewish emigre. Her boyfriend Ronnie Furse, an American taught her to water-ski in the Chesapeake. 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.

Englishman William Alan Barker a former cavalry officer who had been wounded in Normandy on 16 June 1944 brought her back to London.[2] She returned to Britain during the London Season and Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. They were engaged in October 1953.[7] 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 on 18 March 1954.

Heads of school[edit]

Barker was a Master at Eton College and later the Headmaster of The Leys School in Cambridge between 1958 and 1975, before moving again to University College School, London. The couple had one son, Adam Campbell Barker born on 1 August 1955. Adam was educated at King's School, Canterbury and Queen's College, Cambridge where he was MA. He qualified as a solicitor and barrister at the Inns of Court. He was married in 1985 to Elizabeth Mary, daughter of Eric Marsden OBE of Stourpaine Manor, Blandford.[2]

Trumpington was widowed in 1988.[2] 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. And 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.[8] The Macmillan era was rounded off with a world tour to drum up school business.

Conservative politics[edit]

Since 1945 Mother and Baby Homes had been places for the poor to wean their offspring. She was appointed Governor of the local home to Cambridge before it closed and she moved to Cambridge where the voluntary work continued.[9] The United Cambridge Hospital Board, the Cambridge Social Services Committee and the Cambridge Folk Museum all felt the glow of her patronage. Choosing to be a member of the Rheumatism and Arthritis Association serious research work was begun 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, after a burglar turned out to be the wanted felon masquerading as a door-to-door salesman calling himself MacFisheries.

Elected as a city councillor for Trumpington on Cambridge City Council, after ten years she became the Mayor of Cambridge from 1971 to 1972 which she described as a "folderol", after which it was an entree 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. But was best known for opening Elizabeth Bridge, the first across the Cam since Medieval times with former Conservative cabinet minister RA Butler, Steward of Cambridge. After twinning the city with Florence, Heidelberg and Split, all great university cities, she raised funds for Addenbrooke's Hospital, Indo-Pakistan War Relief Fund, and undertook a personal swimathon.

Before the local government and administration of justice reorganization it was usual for the upper classes to sit on the bench as a matter of public duty. She resumed politics once again, but this time on the County Council for two years duration, resigning in 1975 over the rapist scandal.[2][10] She tried to become an MP, but was rejected having reached the short list for the Isle of Ely in the 1970s,[2] losing out in selection to Dr Thomas Stuttaford who later lost the ensuing election 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 fully grown and starting a career. Continuing a gradual move up the career ladder into public life, she matured into a serious-minded public figure; she was appointed to the Board of Visitors at the women's jail, Pentonville Prison in London. Interested in public affairs and the role women played in the public sphere she was one of the few who could get along well with the leader of her party, Margaret Thatcher.[11]

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.[12] The binding Official Secrets clause was repealed, privatisation followed, and profitability indexation restored to Air Mail services.[13]

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.[14] 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".[15]

On 4 February 1980 she was created a life peer, choosing the title Baroness Trumpington, of Sandwich in the County of Kent.[2][16] 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.

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.[17] In June 1983 she joined the Lords Works of Art Committee. She became a resident expert on the committee, where she sat until 2010.[18] 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 Lord as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Security from 1985 to 1987, during which time she was an active smoker. 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.[19] 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.[20] Moving to the Ministry of Agriculture which suited her temperament better than social security, at the height of the Thatcher boom from 1987 to 1989 she made Parliamentary Under-Secretary. She was promoted 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 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][10]

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 received the King of Afghanistan who was without a realm on behalf of HM The Queen. On several occasions during the 1990s became acquainted with the New Labour opposition leaders, Blair and 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.

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). 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 raising the cap to £9,000. She opposed constitutional reform telling the Lords that she believed in the first-past-the-post system; and against the ban on Foxhunting. She 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.[21] 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 as Crimstoppers 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.[22] She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 2005.[2][23]

Her sense of order, propriety and taste had 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".[24] 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][25]

When she tried to debate the "plight of rural veterinary practices" the Labour 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 [26] 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.[27] But throughout her career she has raised uncomfortable truths about topics most politicians have avoided e.g. the plight of women in prisons or the fate of single mothers with mental health issues.


Trumpington was awarded Officier de l'Ordre Nationale du Mérite by the French Republic.[10] In December 2012 she joined in supporting a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing with Stephen Hawking, the physicist, and nine others including Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, and Sir Paul Nurse, the head of the Royal Society. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the signatories called on Prime Minister David Cameron to support the pardon for Turing's 1952 conviction of indecency for homosexuality.[28] 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.[29]


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.[30] 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.[31]

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-ever 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 main course episode of the finals of the Great British Menu.

Later life[edit]

Widowed, Trumpington lived in her flat in Battersea. One night when she was out at 11.30 pm in January 2010 her flat caught fire, and badly damaged her possessions.[2] She enjoys contract bridge, needlepoint and horse racing,[10] and 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.[32] In later interviews with The Guardian she described enjoying her grandchildren Christopher Adam (b.1989) and Virginia Giverny (b.1987).

Titles & Styles[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. ^ McKay, Sinclair (2010). The Secret Life of Bletchley Park. Aurum. pp. 60,125–6. ISBN 978-1-84513-539-3. 
  4. ^ Bletchley Park Code Breakers - Baroness Trumpington on YouTube. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  5. ^ "The enigmatic life of Lady Trumpington" The Guardian 27 April 2014, Retrieved 5 July 2016
  6. ^ see: Antony Colville Diaries
  7. ^ New York Herald, 22 October 1953; New York Times, 22 October 1953; The Times, 2 November 1953
  8. ^ Trumpington, p.162
  9. ^ Trumpington, pp.177-8
  10. ^ a b c d "The Rt Hon the Baroness Trumpington, DCVO, PC". Debrett's. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ HL Deb 30 April 1980 vol 408 cc1284-333, Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  14. ^ Burke's Peerage, 107th edition, vol.III.
  15. ^ Baroness Lockwood: HL Deb 23 November 2004 vol 667 cc5-20. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  16. ^ "No. 48091". The London Gazette. 7 February 1980. p. 1977. 
  17. ^ HL Deb 13 March 1980 vol 406 cc1206-78. Retrieved 22 July 2016
  18. ^ Lords Works of Art
  19. ^ Retrieved 22 July 2016
  20. ^ Weds 15 March 2005, Hansard01 see also: Hansard HL Deb 09 March 2005 vol 670 cc727-9
  21. ^ Retrieved 7 July 2016
  22. ^ HL Deb 08 December 2004 vol 667 cc903-56. Retrieved on 22 July 2016
  23. ^ "No. 57665". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2005. p. 3. 
  24. ^ Baroness Billingham HL Deb 23 November 2004 vol 667 cc5-20 Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  25. ^ "House of Lords' V-sign makes X-rated viewing". Media Monkey Blog. The Guardian (London). 14 November 2011.
  26. ^ Trumpington, p.210
  27. ^ HL Deb 24 June 2004 vol 662 cc1391-406 Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  28. ^ Ben Summerskill. "Pardoning Alan Turing is a pointless exercise". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  29. ^ "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. 
  30. ^ "Desert island Discs". 
  31. ^ Jean Trumpington, Coming UP Trumps: A Memoir, London: Macmillan, 2011
  32. ^ Burke's 107th ed. (London 2003), vol.III, p.1949

External links[edit]