Virginia Bottomley

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone
Official portrait of Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone crop 2.jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
In office
2 May 1997 – 11 June 1997
Leader John Major
Preceded by Chris Smith (National Heritage)
Succeeded by Francis Maude
Secretary of State for National Heritage
In office
5 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Stephen Dorrell
Succeeded by Chris Smith (Culture, Media and Sport)
Secretary of State for Health
In office
9 April 1992 – 5 July 1995
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by William Waldegrave
Succeeded by Stephen Dorrell
Minister of State for Health
In office
28 October 1989 – 9 April 1992
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded by Anthony Trafford
Succeeded by Brian Mawhinney
Member of Parliament
for South West Surrey
In office
4 May 1984 – 11 April 2005
Preceded by Maurice Macmillan
Succeeded by Jeremy Hunt
Personal details
Born (1948-03-12) 12 March 1948 (age 70)
Dunoon, Scotland
Political party Conservative
Alma mater University of Essex
London School of Economics

Virginia Hilda Brunette Maxwell Bottomley, Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, PC, DL (née Garnett, born 12 March 1948) is a British Conservative Party politician. She was a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons from 1984 to 2005. She was raised to the peerage in 2005.

She was a member of the Supervisory Board of Akzo Nobel NV from 2000–12, an NED on BUPA 2007–2013 and currently Smith and Nephew, she is a Trustee of The Economist Newspaper. As part of her pro-bono activities, Virginia is Chancellor of the University of Hull. She was a Governor of the London School of Economics for 31 years. She is a member of the UK Advisory Council of the International Chamber of Commerce. She has been Chair of the Board Practice at executive head-hunting firm Odgers Berndtson where she has been since 2000.[citation needed]

Early life and career[edit]

Virginia Hilda Brunette Maxwell Garnett was born in Dunoon, Scotland to Barbara Rutherford-Smith, a teacher and elected Conservative member of the Inner London Education Authority and W. John Garnett CBE, former director of what was then called The Industrial Society, grandson of physicist and educational adviser William Garnett.[2][3] Her paternal aunt was Labour Greater London Council Member Margaret (Peggy) Jay. She first met Peter Bottomley, her future husband, when she was 12 years old; they wed in 1967.

Bottomley was educated at Putney High School, an independent school for girls in Putney in south-west London, before going up to the University of Essex to study sociology (BA). She later graduated from the London School of Economics with the degree of Master of Arts (MA). She began her working life as a social scientist, researcher for Child Poverty Action Group, social worker, magistrate (Justice of the Peace), and Chairman of the Inner London Juvenile Court.[citation needed]

Member of Parliament and in government[edit]

After unsuccessfully contesting the Isle of Wight in the 1983 general election (34,904 votes), she was elected to Parliament with 21,545 votes in a by-election in 1984 (filling the seat left vacant by the death of Maurice Macmillan, son of former prime minister Harold Macmillan),[4] as the Member for South West Surrey, was PPS to Chris Patten and then to Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe, received her first ministerial position in 1988 as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of the Environment[5][6] and was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Health in 1989.[6] She was appointed a member of the Privy Council (PC) upon joining John Major's Cabinet as Secretary of State for Health in 1992[7][8] and served until 1995. She was the 9th woman in the British cabinet.

She then served as Secretary of State for National Heritage from 1995 to 1997. After the 1997 general election, she returned to the backbenches, also become a headhunter at Odgers.


She stepped down from the House of Commons when the 2005 general election was called.[4] On 24 June 2005 she was created a Life Peer with the title Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, of St Helens in the County of Isle of Wight,[9] the parish where she was baptised and celebrated her marriage.

Personal life[edit]

Bottomley is involved with charitable and academic bodies in addition to business. She was on the founding Council of the University of the Arts, London. She is also a Council Member of the Ditchley Foundation and was President of Farnham Castle, Centre for International Briefing. From 2000 until May 2012 she has sat on the Supervisory Board of Akzo Nobel. She was a non-executive director of Bupa, a healthcare company. She is on the Advisory Council of the International Chamber of Commerce UK (ICC UK) and was for the Judge School of Management, Cambridge. Bottomley has been a trustee and is a fellow of the Industry and Parliament Trust. She was National President of the Abbeyfield Society[10] and a Vice-Patron of Carers and of Cruse Bereavement Care. She was a lay canon of Guildford Cathedral, and a Freeman of the City of London. In 2006, she was elected and installed as Chancellor of the University of Hull, succeeding Lord Armstrong of Ilminster in April 2006.[8] She was also appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey in March of that year and Sheriff of Hull in 2013.[11]

Virginia Garnett married Sir Peter Bottomley in 1967, after the birth of their eldest child;[12][13] since 1975 he has been an MP. They live in Westminster and Milford, Surrey; they have three children, Cecilia, Adela and Joshua and eight grandchildren.

During her time in Prime Minister John Major's cabinet, the satirical puppet show Spitting Image often portrayed Major as having an extramarital affair with Bottomley; years later, it was revealed that Major was having an affair with Edwina Currie at the time.[14]

Bottomley's family includes many figures in politics and public life. Her brother, Christopher Garnett, was the chief executive of train operating company GNER.

Her cousins include Peter Jay (the former British Ambassador to the United States and son-in-law to James Callaghan), and Lord Hunt of Chesterton (father of historian and former Labour MP Tristram Hunt).

More distant relatives include Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, and Baron Jay of Ewelme (a former British Ambassador to France) .

Dame Julia Cleverdon married Bottomley's late father, John.[15] Her husband's niece is Kitty Ussher (a former Labour minister).


  1. ^ "Virginia Bottomley". Front Row. 25 April 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 30 April 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018. 
  4. ^ a b "Looking back on 21 years as an MP". BBC. 27 April 2005. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Geoffrey Parkhouse (26 July 1988). "Thatcher surprise shake-up for Health". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone". Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  7. ^ William E. Schmidt (12 April 1992). "In London's Shock, A Cabinet Is Named". New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "University of Hull announces next chancellor – Baroness Bottomley". University of Hull. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2010. [permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "No. 57688". The London Gazette. 29 June 2005. p. 8439. 
  10. ^ "Abbeyfield Society: Patrons". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  11. ^ BBC Lord Mandelson picked for High Steward of Hull post, 7 February 2013; accessed 21 March 2014.
  12. ^ Durham, Michael (12 July 1992). "Virginia's early summer of love, books and a baby". The Independent. London, UK. 
  13. ^ "Biography at John Major site". Archived from the original on 30 August 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2010. 
  14. ^ Billen, Andrew (28 March 2008). "An entire political era was covered in rubber by Spitting Image". The Times (69283). London, England. p. 11. Retrieved 13 September 2018. (Subscription required (help)). 
  15. ^ Davidson, Andrew (2007), "The MT interview: Julia Cleverdon", Management Today, 28 September 2007; retrieved 3 January 2011.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Macmillan
Member of Parliament for South West Surrey
Succeeded by
Jeremy Hunt
Political offices
Preceded by
William Waldegrave
Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
Stephen Dorrell
Preceded by
Stephen Dorrell
Secretary of State for National Heritage
Succeeded by
Chris Smith
as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport