Baroness Miller of Hendon: Entrepreneur who developed a highly successful cosmetics business before becoming a Whip in the House of Lords

 

For many years Doreen Miller, Baroness Miller of Hendon, ran a highly successful business as well as being a keen voluntary worker for a variety of different charities.

She also found the time to be a magistrate and was an active woman’s rights campaigner, for which she was awarded an MBE in 1989.

She was a committed Tory all her life. Her initial involvement in politics started at a local level in north London, and from there she went on to become the Chairman of the Greater London Area Conservatives. John Major made her a life peer in 1993 and the following year she became a government minister.

She was one of the very few women in the Tory party – and particularly in the Lords – who actually knew how to start up and run a very successful business. Margaret Thatcher married into money by marrying a businessman with inherited money but she never ran so much as a whelk stall at a profit. Doreen Miller was different: working for herself, she started up and built a business – not in whelks, but in the esoteric world of beauty products for women.

Doreen Feldman was born in north London in 1933. She had a sound grammar school education at the Brondesbury and Kilburn High School for Girls. She studied for a degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science. From an early age she had had an ambition to run her own business, and on leaving university she went into the cosmetics industry. From 1971, until her retirement from business in 1989, she ran the highly successful Universal Beauty Club, as chairman and managing director.

Her company was essentially an international mail order and marketing business for cosmetics operating mainly in the UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. In 1975, being something of an expert in the beauty business, she wrote a book about the subject, Let’s Make Up. At a formal dinner in the Lords, she once said to me, “Ron, I bet you don’t know the last thing every woman should do before she leaves the house in the morning!” I had to admit I was stumped. “She must always see that her hair is looking nice, that her make-up is OK and that her clothes look smart!” she said. Doreen practised what she preached. She always looked a million dollars.

In 1955 she met, and later married, Henry Miller. It was a good marriage, the couple going on to have three sons. Henry Miller was always very supportive of Doreen’s political activities. For many years she was the president of a Tory dining club, the 1912 Club, which meets four times a year. I have been a member for about 20 years and cannot remember a single occasion when Doreen and Henry failed to turn up. Along with the Club’s able chairman, David Amess MP, they always knew the importance of humour, and their jokes were very good. She rarely took holidays. But when she did, she said she “enjoyed sitting near sunlit pools, given the opportunity.”

For many years Miller was a front bench spokesman for the Conservatives in the Lords. She served as a Government Whip from 1994-97 and was a Government Spokesman for health and education matters. She was an Opposition Whip from 1997 until 2000 and a spokesman for the Opposition on education and employment. From 2000-2003 she was an Opposition spokesman on trade and industry.

Throughout her political life, what she cared about most was trying to get more women into political and public life. “Doreen was highly effective in encouraging women to get involved in politics and supporting their careers,” Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, recalled. “I always received wise advice and brilliant support from her. Without her help and encouragement, I doubt I would ever have been elected as an MEP or MP. Doreen chaired the MEP selection meeting which gave me my first lucky break in politics in 1998 and she did so with great common sense and fairness. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”

As Baroness Miller she was a very popular figure in the Lords, well regarded across the political divide. In this respect, she occupied a similar reputational position to that currently held by Baroness Trumpington: a thoroughly good egg, regardless of deeply held political convictions.

Shortly after he left prison, Lord Archer resumed his practice of throwing a champagne and shepherds pie Christmas party at his swanky apartment in Vauxhall. The press soon got hold of the guest list, and I remember a BBC journalist asking Miller why she was attending. Back came her immortal reply: “He is a friend – and I do not desert my friends. I know he has done time in prison. But that is over. And he should be entitled to a bit of fun – like anyone else who has just left prison!”

Doreen Feldman, businesswoman and politician: born London 13 June 1933; MBE 1989, cr. Life Peer 1993; married 1955 Henry Miller (three sons); died London 21 June 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree: Did you know? 98% of our di...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Did you know? 98% of our directors started with SThree as...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sa...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Executive - OTE £28,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen