Bottomley set to leave front bench

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The Independent Online
Love her or loathe her, the cut-glass voice of Virginia Bottomley is likely to be missed from the BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"Ginny", as she is known at Westminster has told friends she is standing down from the Tory front bench, whoever is elected as the new leader of the party.

She told friends on the party circuit on the eve of the leadership poll that she was plan- ning to spend more time with her family.

Mrs Bottomley, the pin-up for many Tory MPs in the Thatcher era, has been a regular voice on the BBC flagship show since John Major's 1992 general election victory, when he promoted her to the Cabinet with Gillian Shephard.

As Secretary of State for Health, she earned a reputation for ringing up officials at the crack of dawn to demand a right of reply on the Today programme. Mrs Bottomley, 49, was responsible for hard decisions, including the proposed closure of London hospitals, now halted pending a review by Labour.

At the Department of Nation- al Heritage, she defended the National Lottery, helped protect the BBC from changes which could have opened it to more commercialism, and pre-sided over the Millenium Exhibition.

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