Timothy Bell, Baron Bell

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Bell
Born Timothy John Leigh Bell
(1941-10-18) 18 October 1941 (age 75)
Nationality British
Occupation Advertising and public relations executive
Known for Campaign work for Margaret Thatcher[1]

Timothy John Leigh Bell, Baron Bell (born 18 October 1941) is a British advertising and public relations executive, best known for his advisory role in Margaret Thatcher's three successful general election campaigns.

Early life, education, career and controversy[edit]

Bell was born on 18 October 1941, to Greta Mary Findlay and Arthur Leigh Bell.[2] He was educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Barnet, and joined ABC Television at 18 as a post boy.[3] He worked in various advertising/PR firms in the late 60s including the London agency Geers Gross, before helping to found and becoming Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi in 1970, later serving as Chairman and Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi Compton from 1975.

On 19 November 1977 Bell was fined £50 for indecency. He had exposed himself while masturbating at his Hampstead bathroom window on 21 October in full view of female passers-by.[4][5] He left Saatchi to found Lowe Howard-Spink & Bell (serving as deputy chairman) in 1985 and bought out part of it, which became his own agency, Lowe Bell Communications, in 1989,[3] and became Chairman of Chime Communications in 1994 (which included the Bell Pottinger Group).

Thatcher years[edit]

Bell was instrumental in the Conservative general election campaign victories of Margaret Thatcher. For her first 1979 victory, he created the 'Labour Isn't Working' campaign[3] and advised the future Prime Minister on interview techniques, clothing, and even hairstyle choices. He also courted newspaper editors and worked on devastating attacks on the Labour Party.

In 1984 Bell was seconded to the National Coal Board to advise on media strategy at the start of the miners' strike. He worked on media relations and helped set the terms of the negotiations and course of government policy.

Bell was knighted in 1991[6] after nomination by Margaret Thatcher, and created a Life Peer after nomination by Tony Blair, as Baron Bell of Belgravia in the City of Westminster on 31 July 1998.[7] He is now often seen on panels and current affairs programmes discussing the issues of the day, and is Chairman of the Conservative Party's Keep the £ Campaign. He has also served on various arts and public administration bodies. On 8 April 2013 it was Bell who officially announced the news of Lady Thatcher's death.

International work[edit]

Bell advised Hernán Büchi, a former minister of the Pinochet dictatorship, in the presidential election of 1989.[8] Büchi eventually lost by a large margin to Patricio Aylwin.[9]

Lord Bell, a friend of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, handled the media attention behind poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in hospital 23 November 2006. The Bell Pottinger Communications agency distributed a photograph showing a hairless Litvinenko in his hospital bed. The PR Agency also offered advice to relatives of Litvinenko and his spokesman Alex Goldfarb.[10]

In December 2006 Lord Bell successfully lobbied on behalf of the Saudi government to discontinue the Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged bribes in the Al Yamamah arms deal.[11]

Lord Bell has also performed public relations work for the authoritarian government of Belarus,[12] and for the Pinochet Foundation (Fundación Pinochet). He has also worked as an advisor to former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.[13]

In late 2011, Bell's lobbying interests were investigated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent newspaper which reported claims that the company attempts to interfere with Google results to "drown" out coverage of human rights abuses, that his employees had altered English Wikipedia entries to create a better impression of clients and had easy access (via former Conservative MP Tim Collins) to the Cameron government and others overseas.[14] Bell-Pottinger, via a sting operation, were found to be willing to work for the authoritarian regime in Uzbekistan.[14] Bell launched an internal inquiry, but believed he had been singled out for his connection with Mrs Thatcher.[15]

Chime disposed of Bell Pottinger in June 2012 (while retaining a 25% stake in the business), when Bell also resigned as a director of Chime.[16]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1941–1991: Mr Timothy Bell
  • 1991–1998: Sir Timothy Bell
  • 1998–: The Right Honourable The Lord Bell


  1. ^ Field, Michele (24 January 1986). "Tim Bell Love Newspapers, Gorillas and Maggie T". The Age. 
  2. ^ "Timothy John Leigh Bell, Baron Bell". The Peerage. Lundy Consulting Ltd. 10 May 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Tim Bell: 'There's never been so much tension between business and politicians'", telegraph.co.uk, 17 April 2010
  4. ^ Mark Hollingsworth The Ultimate spin doctor: the life and fast times of Tim Bell, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997, p.45
  5. ^ Brian Basham "Thatcher exposed in Tim Bell revelations", Marketing Week, 14 March 1997
  6. ^ "No. 52543". The London Gazette. 28 May 1991. p. 8208. 
  7. ^ "No. 55216". The London Gazette. 5 August 1998. p. 8519. 
  8. ^ Andy Beckett, Pinochet in Piccadilly. Britain and Chile's Hidden History (Faber and Faber, 2002), p. 217.
  9. ^ Angell, Alan; Pollack, Benny (1990). "The Chilean Elections of 1989". Bulletin of Latin American Research. Society for Latin American Studies. 9 (1): 1–23. 
  10. ^ "Berezovsky link draws Lord Bell into action". Financial Times. 24 November 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006. 
  11. ^ David Leigh; Rob Evans (16 December 2006). "Brutal politics lesson for corruption investigators". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 16 December 2006. 
  12. ^ "No breakthrough in Belarus", The Economist, 2 October 2008
  13. ^ Moseley, Ray (18 February 1994). "Malaysia Dam Linked To Arms Deal With Britain". Chicago Tribune. Chicago. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Melanie Newman and Oliver Wright "Caught on camera: top lobbyists boasting how they influence the PM", The Independent, 6 December 2011
  15. ^ Stephen Robinson "'Of course I regret it, I need it like a hole in the head, all this s**t'", Evening Standard (London), 8 December 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Completion of Disposal". Market Announcements, Monday 02 July 2012. Chime plc. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 

External links[edit]