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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate