The Baroness Bottomley
of Nettlestone
Official portrait of Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2018
Shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage
In office
2 May 1997 – 11 June 1997
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byJack Cunningham
Succeeded byFrancis Maude
Secretary of State for National Heritage
In office
5 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byStephen Dorrell
Succeeded byChris Smith
Secretary of State for Health
In office
10 April 1992 – 5 July 1995
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byWilliam Waldegrave
Succeeded byStephen Dorrell
Minister of State for Health
In office
28 October 1989 – 10 April 1992
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded byAnthony Trafford
Succeeded byBrian Mawhinney
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment
In office
25 July 1988 – 28 October 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byDavid Trippier
Succeeded byDavid Heathcoat-Amory
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
24 June 2005
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for South West Surrey
In office
4 May 1984 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byMaurice Macmillan
Succeeded byJeremy Hunt
Personal details
Born (1948-03-12) 12 March 1948 (age 74)[1]
Dunoon, Scotland
Political partyConservative
(m. 1967)
ChildrenJosh · Cecilia · Adela
EducationPutney High School
Alma materUniversity of Essex (BA)
London School of Economics (MA)
WebsiteOfficial website

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

Early life and career

Virginia Hilda Brunette Maxwell Garnett was born in Dunoon, Scotland, to Barbara Rutherford-Smith, Jarrow hunger marcher, 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 Cambridge physicist and educational adviser William Garnett and of Sir Edward Poulton, Hope professor of zoology at Oxford.[3][4] Her paternal aunt was Labour Greater London Council member 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 southwest 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

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),[5] 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[6][7] and was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Health in 1989.[7] She was appointed a member of the Privy Council (PC) upon joining John Major's Cabinet as Secretary of State for Health in 1992,[8][9] becoming the ninth woman to serve in the British cabinet.[citation needed] She served as Health Secretary until 1995. [10]

Bottomley and Ann Widdecombe have been listed as co-founders of Lady Olga Maitland’s pro-nuclear Women and Families for Defence group.[11]

She served as Secretary of State for National Heritage from 1995 to 1997. During this period, she appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest 1996, wishing luck to the United Kingdom's entrant, Gina G.

After the 1997 general election, she returned to the backbenches, and become a headhunter at Odgers, where she headed and now chairs the company's Board & CEO Practice.[12]


She stepped down from the House of Commons when the 2005 general election was called.[5] 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,[13] the parish where she was baptised and celebrated her marriage.

Personal life

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 was a Council Member of the Ditchley Foundation and was President of Farnham Castle, Centre for International Briefing. From 2000 until May 2012 she sat on the Supervisory Board of Akzo Nobel. She was a non-executive director of Bupa, a healthcare company. She was on the Advisory Council of the International Chamber of Commerce UK (ICC UK) and 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[14] 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.[9] She was also appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey in March of that year and Sheriff of Hull since 2013.[15] She is the longest serving trustee of The Economist newspaper.

Virginia Garnett married Peter Bottomley in 1967, after the birth of their eldest child;[16][17] since 1975 he has been an MP.

During her time in Prime Minister John Major's cabinet, the satirical puppet show Spitting Image often portrayed Major as having an unrequited crush on Bottomley; years later, it was revealed that Major was having an affair with Edwina Currie at the time.[18]

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 aunt Pauline married Roland Hunt who is not, contrary to persistent false rumour, connected to Sir Nicholas Hunt, father of Jeremy Hunt who succeeded her as MP.

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).

Julia Cleverdon married Bottomley's late father, John.[19] Her husband's niece is Kitty Ussher (a former Labour minister).


  1. ^ "Mrs Virginia Bottomley (Hansard)". Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Virginia Bottomley". Front Row. 25 April 2013. BBC Radio 4. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Obituary: John Garnett". The Independent. 18 September 1997. Archived from the original on 27 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  4. ^ "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33333. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Archived from the original on 30 April 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ a b "Looking back on 21 years as an MP". BBC. 27 April 2005. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  6. ^ Geoffrey Parkhouse (26 July 1988). "Thatcher surprise shake-up for Health". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone". Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  8. ^ William E. Schmidt (12 April 1992). "In London's Shock, A Cabinet Is Named". New York Times. Archived from the original on 31 May 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  9. ^ a b "University of Hull announces next chancellor – Baroness Bottomley". University of Hull. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2010.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Care in the community failures". BBC News. 20 November 1998.
  11. ^ Martin, Lorna (19 August 2006). "The battle of Greenham Common is over. But their spirit still burns". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Virginia Bottomley". Odgers Berndtson. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  13. ^ "No. 57688". The London Gazette. 29 June 2005. p. 8439.
  14. ^ "Abbeyfield Society: Patrons". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2009.
  15. ^ BBC Lord Mandelson picked for High Steward of Hull post Archived 13 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine, 7 February 2013; accessed 21 March 2014.
  16. ^ Durham, Michael (12 July 1992). "Virginia's early summer of love, books and a baby". The Independent. London, UK. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Biography at John Major site". Archived from the original on 30 August 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  18. ^ Billen, Andrew (28 March 2008). "An entire political era was covered in rubber by Spitting Image". The Times. No. 69283. London, England. p. 11. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  19. ^ Davidson, Andrew (2007), "The MT interview: Julia Cleverdon" Archived 4 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Management Today, 28 September 2007; retrieved 3 January 2011.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byMaurice Macmillan Member of Parliament for South West Surrey 19842005 Succeeded byJeremy Hunt Political offices Preceded byWilliam Waldegrave Secretary of State for Health 1992–95 Succeeded byStephen Dorrell Preceded byStephen Dorrell Secretary of State for National Heritage 1995–97 Succeeded byChris Smithas Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport