Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Jay of Paddington
Baroness Jay of Paddington.jpg
Chair of the Constitution Committee
Assumed office
Preceded by The Lord Goodlad
Leader of the House of Lords
Lord Privy Seal
In office
27 July 1998 – 8 June 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by The Lord Richard
Succeeded by The Lord Williams of Mostyn
Minister for Women
In office
27 July 1998 – 8 June 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Harriet Harman
Succeeded by Patricia Hewitt
Personal details
Born Margaret Ann Callaghan
(1939-11-18) 18 November 1939 (age 76)
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Peter Jay (1961–1986)
Michael Adler
Children Tamsin
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford

Margaret Ann Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington, PC (born 18 November 1939) is a British politician for the Labour Party and former BBC television producer and presenter.


Her father was James Callaghan, a Labour politician and Prime Minister,[1] and she was educated at Blackheath High School, Blackheath and Somerville College, Oxford.

Between 1965 and 1977 she held production posts within the BBC, working on current affairs and further education television programmes.[1] She then became a journalist on the BBC's prestigious Panorama programme, and Thames Television's This Week and presented the BBC 2 series Social History of Medicine.[1] She has a strong interest in health issues, notably as a campaigner on HIV and AIDS. She was a founder director of the National Aids Trust in 1987 and is also a patron of Help the Aged.[1]

Between 1994 and 1997, Baroness Jay was the Chairman of the charity Attend (then National Association of Hospital and Community Friends). In 2003, she was elected Vice-President of Attend.[2]

Political career[edit]

She was appointed a life peer on 29 July 1992 with the title of Baroness Jay of Paddington, of Paddington in the City of Westminster,[3] and acted as an opposition Whip in the House of Lords.[1] In association with the shop workers' union, she led opposition to the liberalisation of Sunday trading hours.

After her party's election victory in 1997, she became Health Spokesman and Minister for Women in the House of Lords. From 1998 she was Leader of the House of Lords, playing a pivotal role in the major reform that led to the removal of most of its hereditary members. On 11 November 1999 the government's reform bill was given Royal Assent and more than 660 hereditary peers lost their right to sit and vote in the Lords.

Every office she held was an appointment. She was never elected to any public office. She retired from active politics in 2001. Among numerous non-executive roles that she has taken on since retiring from politics, she was a non-executive director of BT Group.[4]

She is currently co-chair of the cross-party Iraq Commission (along with Tom King and Paddy Ashdown) which was established by the Foreign Policy Centre think-tank and Channel 4. Before her resignation, Jay gave an interview in which she said she attended a "pretty standard grammar school", which was actually Blackheath High School, an independent school. She drew ridicule when she said she could understand the needs of rural voters because she had a "little cottage" in the country, which turned out to be a £500,000 house in Ireland,[5] and she also had a "substantial property" in the Chilterns.[6]

Personal life[edit]

In 1961, she married fellow journalist Peter Jay, himself a child of political parents: Douglas Jay, Labour MP and president of the Board of Trade, and Margaret (Peggy) Jay, member of the Greater London Council. Peter Jay was appointed ambassador to the United States of America by his friend Dr. David Owen, Foreign Secretary in her father's government, leading to accusations of nepotism.[7]

While in the USA, she met journalist Carl Bernstein, who had helped expose Watergate, with whom she had a much-publicised extramarital relationship in 1979. Bernstein's then-wife, Nora Ephron, fictionalised the story in her novel, Heartburn, in which the character of "Thelma" is a thinly disguised representation of Jay.[8]

Peter Jay then had an affair with their nanny, fathering a child in the process (he originally denied paternity).[9] The Jays divorced in 1986 after 25 years of marriage, and she lived for a while with Professor Robert Neild, the Cambridge economist.[10]

In 1994, she married AIDS specialist Professor Michael Adler, who had been chair of the National AIDS Trust when she was its director. She retained her surname from her first marriage.[11] She has three children: Tamsin, Alice and Patrick.[12]


Arms of Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington
A Coronet of a Baroness
Quarterly Vert and Azure in the former a Portcullis Or in the latter a Lymphad with an Anchor at its prow and masted Or the Sail set Argent and Pennants flying Gules overall a Fess Or to the sinister thereof a Grassy Mount with a Hurst of Oak Trees and issuing therefrom passant to the dexter a Wolf proper (Callaghan)
Malo Laborare Quam Languere


  1. ^ a b c d e "Baroness Jay's political progress". BBC News. 31 July 2001. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  2. ^ "Attend VIPs | Attend". Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 53007. p. 13075. 3 August 1992.
  4. ^ "About BT Group - The board - The Rt Hon Baroness Jay of Paddington PC". BT Group. Archived from the original on 8 August 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Warring parties clash over elitism". BBC. 2000-06-03. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  6. ^ "Labour's only true aristocrat flees spotlight". Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  7. ^ "Sir Peter Ramsbotham". Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  8. ^ Jesse Kornbluth (14 March 1983). "Scenes From A Marriage: Nora Ephron turns her life into an open book". New York Magazine. pp. 40–43. 
  9. ^ "Jay talking". The Guardian. 2000-06-17. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  10. ^ "Lords leader Lady Jay is set to leave the Cabinet.". The Daily Mail. 16 February 2001. Retrieved 17 August 2007. 
  11. ^ "Baroness Jay of Paddington". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  12. ^ "Who's afraid of the big, beautiful baroness?". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Richard
Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Lord Williams of Mostyn
Lord Privy Seal
Preceded by
Harriet Harman
Minister for Women
Succeeded by
Patricia Hewitt
Party political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Richard
Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Lord Williams of Mostyn