Obituary: Judith Chaplin

IN A newspaper interview some time before she challenged Edward Heath for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher was asked whether she could see herself, one day, becoming prime minister, writes Patrick Cosgrave. She replied in the negative. A woman, she thought, would not be prime minister in her lifetime. Asked what, then, was her main political ambition she replied that it was to be the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was an ambition that Judith Chaplin might well have achieved had untimely death not cut short her parliamentary career so soon after it had begun.

Consider her qualifications. She had been to Girton College, Cambridge, then in the top flight of Cambridge colleges. She was an accountant. She worked as director of research at the Institute of Directors. She did a stint at the Conservative Research Department. She went on to advise two chancellors. She concluded her pre-parliamentary career as head of the prime minister's political office. Nigel Lawson and John Major have very different personalities, and had very different economic policies when Chancellor, so it could be said that she had seen at close range the whole gamut of policy. Moreover, she had spent several years as headmistress of a pre-preparatory school, something which would have stood her in good stead in dealing with MPs had she lived to become a minister, for she was almost certain to have been given office.

But I do not want to portray her as some kind of ambitious harridan. The great danger for political advisers - especially when they rise high in that ambiguous hierarchy - is that they become arrogant and remote from the outside world. Neither of these accusations could be levelled against Judith Chaplin. She was more than simply approachable; she was charming. She was also highly efficient. Any politician who wanted, say, to get a message or request through to the Prime Minister knew that contact with Judith Chaplin was the way to ensure that the Prime Minister was at least given a personal opportunity to consider what was being asked.

As somebody who has dealt with No 10 Downing Street very recently said to me, once she left for Newbury, you could never be sure that anything was really being done with expedition in the political office.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform