Lynda Higginson was born into a working-class family in the mining town of Leigh, Lancashire, England. Her father was a miner who would later turn to painting and decorating, while her mother worked in a shoe shop; Lynda won a place at Leigh Girls' Grammar School, which she described as "the escape route for ordinary children and the pathway to a new life". Her first ambition was to become an actress and, aged 18, she went to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, later telling friends that she lost her Lancashire accent on the train down. After leaving the Guildhall School, and using the stage name Lynda Berrison, she won a part in one of Brian Rix's farces at the Whitehall Theatre.
Higginson's life changed when she met Jeremy Lee-Potter, the son of Air Marshal Sir Patrick Lee-Potter, who was then a medical student at Guy's Hospital. They married in 1957, after which he was posted to Aden, Yemen, as an RAF doctor. While living there, she began her career as a journalist, writing articles for the Aden Chronicle about life as an expatriate. Her husband became an eminent consultant haematologist, based at Poole General Hospital, chairman of the Council of the British Medical Association from 1990 to 1993 and the deputy chairman of the professional conduct committee of the General Medical Council.
She joined the Daily Mail as a feature writer in 1967, but her big break came five years later, when Jean Rook left the Daily Mail for the Daily Express. Lee-Potter recalled: "I remember I had the day off, and our features editor phoned up and said: 'the editor (David English) wants you to come in and do a column,' and I said 'Oh, right'. I went in and did it. Every week I thought somebody else would probably take over. But it's just carried on." One journalist who was given the job of interviewing her reported:
It is difficult when approaching Lee-Potter to know if you will be getting the columnist or the affable interviewer. Questions about her views are deftly parried, and turned into questions about yours. Within 10 minutes of our meeting, she had determined my marital status, number of children, place of residence, so on and so forth.
In the year 2000, she published a book called Class Act: How to Beat the British Class System. In the book, she declared that "people may well sneer at me for writing a book about class", she declared. "Others will say that nobody called Lynda from a working-class background has any right to pontificate on the subject. Actually, I can't think of anybody better equipped, having probably trawled my way through more classes than most".
The book offered aperçus such as "upper middle-class mummies have little trouble with au pairs because they are naturally authoritative" and "the lower middle-classes desperately want to be dainty", and dispensed advice, such as what to take your hostess at country house weekends: "Under no circumstances take a poinsettia, which is the plant equivalent of a bottle of Blue Nun."
She made no apology for her interest in the subject: "The only people who hanker after a classless society are those who want what other people have without working for it". Snobbery, she said, "will always be with us", adding: "It has certainly motivated me all my life. I may be ridiculous, but I don't care."
Illness and death
On 20 October 2004, Lee-Potter succumbed to a brain tumour. She was survived by her husband and three children (one son, Adam, and two daughters Charlie and Emma), all of whom followed their mother into journalism.
- Lynda Lee-Potter, the angry voice of Middle England, dies, The Independent, 20 October 2004
- Obituary: Lynda Lee-Potter, The Guardian, 21 October 2004
- Obituaries: Lynda Lee-Potter, Daily Telegraph, 21 October 2004
- Farewell to the First Lady of Fleet Street, Daily Mail, 20 October 2004
- Columnist Lynda Lee-Potter dies, BBC News Online, 20 October, 2004
- Rogue femail: life and times of Lynda Lee-Potter, The Guardian, 21 October 2004