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Daphne Barbara Follett (née Hubbard, born 25 December 1942) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Stevenagemarker since 1997. She is married to author Ken Follett. Follett is currently a junior minister at the Department for Communities and Local Governmentmarker, having for a short term filled the role of Margaret Hodge, as Tourism Minister.

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.

Background

Barbara Follett was born Daphne Barbara Hubbard in Kingstonmarker, Jamaicamarker 25 December 1942 where her father was an insurance executive. In 1946 the family returned, first to Jerseymarker then in 1947 to Billericaymarker, Essex. In 1952 the family moved to Ethiopiamarker. In 1957 after an unfortunate incident involving her alcoholic father, a toast and a drinks trolley, the family were asked to leave the country and went to Cape Townmarker 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 Stellenboschmarker. 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 was assassinated, the family fled back to England, living at Farnhammarker in Surreymarker, where she worked for the Centre for International Briefing, and joined the Labour Party.

Political career

Follett stood unsuccessfully as Labour candidate for Wokingmarker 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 Ewellmarker 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 Economicsmarker, 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 Officemarker 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, Mr Justice Hodge. 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 to look after her ill husband, who later died mid-2009.

Follett announced her decision to stand down at the next general election on 1 October 2009.

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 and then use special gloves to feel the child. Follett complained to the BSCmarker and ITC about being duped into appearing into the programme. The BSCmarker 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".

Expenses Controversies

In May 2009 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. Further still, the invoices for the work were addressed to her husband.In a different article, the same paper alleged that she claimed more than £25,000 for security patrols at her London home after she was mugged. Her previous husband - a prominent anti-apartheid activist - was assassinated in their daughters' bedroom in 1978.

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. Further still, commuting to London from her main home in Stevenage takes less than 30 minutes by rail.

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.

References

  1. [1]


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