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The Right Honourable
 Barbara Follett 
MP

Barbara Follett speaking at the pre-launch of LGBT History Month 08 at the Royal Courts of Justice - 26 November 2007

Incumbent
Assumed office 
22 September 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Sarah McCarthy-Fry
(Shifted to be Exchequer Secretary at the Treasury)

In office
4 October 2008 – 22 September 2009
(as Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism)
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Margaret Hodge
Succeeded by Margaret Hodge

Member of Parliament
for Stevenage
Incumbent
Assumed office 
1 May 1997
Preceded by Tim Wood
Majority 3,139 (7.5%)

Born 25 December 1942 (1942-12-25) (age 67)
Kingston, Jamaica
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Ken Follett
Alma mater London School of Economics
Website http://www.barbara-follett.org.uk/

Daphne Barbara Follett (née Hubbard, born 25 December 1942) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Stevenage since 1997. She is married to author Ken Follett. Follett is currently a junior minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government and Minister for the East of England. Follet is a highly notable case in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal having overclaimed the highest amount of expenses of any MP in the country.[1] She announced she would stand down at the 2010 General Election as a result.

Follett and her husband have been referred to as champagne socialists in the media due to the contrast between their political views and their extravagant lifestyle.[2]

Contents

Background

She was born Daphne Barbara Hubbard in Kingston, Jamaica 25 December 1942 where her father was an insurance executive. In 1946 the family returned, first to Jersey then in 1947 to Billericay, Essex. In 1952 the family moved to Ethiopia. In 1957 after an unfortunate incident involving her alcoholic father, a toast and a drinks trolley,[3] the family were asked to leave the country and went to Cape Town in South Africa. She began a University degree in Art, but in 1962 had to give it up and started work with Barclays Bank.

She married Richard Turner in 1963 and they went to Paris where she worked for the Berlitz School of Languages. They returned to South Africa in 1966 to run his mother's fruit farm in Stellenbosch. In 1969 she started working for Kupugani, an organisation that provided cheap food for the poor.

In 1970, on the breakdown of her marriage, she became acting Regional Secretary at the Institute of Race Relations. She worked again for Kupugani from 1971 to 1978. After a brief marriage to Gerald Stonestreet, she married architect Les Broer. In 1978, shortly after her ex-husband Richard, a prominent anti-apartheid activist was assassinated, the family fled back to England, living at Farnham in Surrey, where she worked for the Centre for International Briefing, and joined the Labour Party.

Political career

Follett stood unsuccessfully as Labour candidate for Woking in the 1983 general election. In 1985 she married author Ken Follett. From 1984 to 1992 she was a freelance lecturer and consultant, contesting Epsom and Ewell for Labour in 1987. She joined the Fawcett Society and the National Alliance of Women's Organisations and jointly founded the Labour Women's Network in 1987. She obtained a BSc (Econ) from the London School of Economics, and was Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research 1993 to 1997. She became a patron of Action on Pre-Eclampsia.

The 1997 General Election saw Follett elected as MP for Stevenage. She has served on many groups and committees, and is a member of the Fabian Society. In November 2005, she became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tessa Jowell. In June 2007 she was promoted to become Minister for the East of England and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Government Equalities Office supporting the Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman. Following Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle of 3 October 2008, Follett was made Minister of Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport replacing Margaret Hodge who went on compassionate leave caring for her ill husband. In the reshuffle of June 2009 Follett lost her responsibility for Creative Industries, which passed to the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the department, Sion Simon. As of 22 September 2009, Follett has been demoted to a junior minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, after Margaret Hodge returned to government to take the portfolio back as Tourism Minister after her compassionate leave of absence.

Following the controversy generated by the public disclouse of her expense Follett announced her decision to stand down at the 2010 general election on 1 October 2009.[4] She cited a desire to spend more time with her family as her motivation for standing down.

Brass Eye

In 2001 Follett appeared in the television satire programme Brass Eye which satirised media hysteria towards the issue of paedophilia. In the programme she was duped into giving fake warnings about an online game called Pantu the dog, claiming on camera that a paedophile had converted the dogs eye into a webcam in order to see the child player. Follett went on to demonstrate how the paedophile would wear a t-shirt with a small illustration of a child's body on it, in order to disguise themselves as another child and how the paedophiles get children to press their faces against the screen, using special gloves to touch them.[5] Follett complained to the BSC and ITC about being duped into appearing into the programme. The BSC noted that the programme makers had deliberately given warning signals to suggest the material might be dubious and thus rejected Follett's complaints against the show as it successfully revealed the dangers of how public figures were willing to speak "with apparent authority about matters they do not understand".[6]

Expenses Controversies

In May 2008 following the release of details of MPs expenses it emerged that the taxpayer had paid in excess of £1,600 for window cleaning of Follett's London flat in a single year.[7] Further still, the invoices for the work were addressed to her husband.[8]

In May of the following year, the Daily Telegraph alleged that she claimed more than £25,000 for private security patrols at her London home after she was mugged.[9] Follett was also criticised for claiming £120,000 in expenses from the taxpayer over 6 years to pay for a London flat when she already owned one property in the capital. Additionally, commuting to London from her main home in Stevenage takes less than 30 minutes by rail.[10] It was also revealed that Follett had claimed £528.75 to repair and clean a Chinese rug, though only £300 of the claim was actually accepted as the amount was deemed excessive.[11]

In February 2010, following a review of all MP's expenses it was revealed that Follett had claimed more in dubious expenses than any other MP in the country. This led some newspapers to brand her "The Expenses Queen".[12]. Additional items she was ordered to repay included £4,454 for having six phone lines at her property and £2,812 for insuring her fine art collection.[13] Follet also claimed twice for boiler insurance and for pest control at a property which wasn't actually her second home.[14]

Follett had initially insisted all her claims were justified, but following significant criticism she changed her position and agreed to repay £32,976 for the security patrols and other similarly extravagant claims.[15] The rest of the money she owed was repaid later.[16] Follett apologised, stating "I did try to act as honestly as possible but where I failed, I am sorry".[17]

Personal life

She is married to Ken Follett. They own two properties in London, one in Hertfordshire, a property in Cape Town and a holiday home in Antigua.[10]

References

  1. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8498424.stm
  2. ^ Jones, George (2001-06-19). "How Blair's New Labour went flat for champagne socialists". Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1346349/How-Blair%27s-New-Labour-went-flat-for-champagne-socialists.html. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  3. ^ "Barbara Follett official biography". 2009-10-09. http://www.barbara-follett.org.uk/biography/index.html. 
  4. ^ "Barbara Follett steps down as MP in wake of expenses disclosures". The Daily Telegraph. 2009-10-01. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/labour-mps-expenses/6251538/Barbara-Follett-steps-down-as-MP-in-wake-of-expenses-disclosures.html. 
  5. ^ August 18, 2008 (2008-08-18). "brass eye pedophile special. iternet stalkers". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx4ixXQFUQY#t=0m17s. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  6. ^ "MP loses Brass Eye battle | Media | MediaGuardian". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2002/jan/31/politics.labourparty. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  7. ^ Last Updated: 5:14AM BST 24 May 2008 (2008-05-24). "Daily Telegraph article on Follett's expenses". Telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/2017493/Barbara-Follett-andpound1,600-for-window-cleaning.html. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  8. ^ Max Hastings (2008-05-26). "These expense claims mean we must call time on parliament's petty fiddling". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/26/houseofcommons.freedomofinformation. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  9. ^ Beckford, Martin. "Daily Telegraph article on Follett's expenses". Telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5297818/Barbara-Follett-Millionaire-MPs-25000-expenses-on-security-over-safety-fears.html. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  10. ^ a b "Buy-to-let Barbie cashes in on MPs' housing perk". London: Times Online. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2753503.ece. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  11. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1217629/Barbara-Follett-claimed-25-000-expenses-private-security-stand-MP.html
  12. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1248648/Expenses-Two-MPs-face-fraud-charges-389-shamed.html
  13. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1248648/Expenses-Two-MPs-face-fraud-charges-389-shamed.html
  14. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8498424.stm
  15. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/labour-mps-expenses/6251538/Barbara-Follett-steps-down-as-MP-in-wake-of-expenses-disclosures.html
  16. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8498424.stm
  17. ^ http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/02/05/the-374-fiddlers-115875-22019777/

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Timothy Wood
Member of Parliament for Stevenage
1997–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
2009–present
Incumbent
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