Obituary: Judith Chaplin

Sybil Judith Schofield, civil servant and politician, born 19 August 1939, Head Policy Unit Institute of Directors 1986-88, Special Adviser to Chancellor of Exchequer 1988-90, Head Prime Minister's Political Office 1990-92, OBE 1992, MP (Conservative) for Newbury 1992-93, married 1962 the Hon Robert Walpole (two sons, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1979), 1984 Michael Chaplin, died London 19 February 1993.

Judith Chaplin was elected MP for Newbury in last year's general election and before that had worked as the head of the Prime Minister's political office at Downing Street.

The daughter of a hospital dentist, she was born Judith Schofield and educated at Wycombe Abbey and Girton College, Cambridge, where she obtained a degree in economics. Marriage to Robert Walpole and four children soon filled her life, though not so completely as to prevent her serving on Norfolk County Council in 1975, sometime as chairman of the education committee.

She did a postgraduate course in economics at the University of East Anglia before joining the Conservative Research Department as head of its economics section. This was followed by a stint with the Institute of Directors where she headed up their policy unit. In 1988 she became a special adviser at the Treasury to the then Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, and after him to John Major. She got on well with her bosses, particularly as she saw the nation's economic problems much as they do. Many might have thought that working closely with two chancellors would be sufficient for most people's ambitions. But writing speeches and giving advice was not enough for Judith Chaplin. She wanted to enter Parliament and, in time, play her part in government.

It says much for her that when so many Conservative constituencies seemed determined to select ever younger candidates she was prepared to take her chance, aged 49 and a woman, in that precarious business. She had no previous experience of contesting a 'bad' seat. She knew that time was not on her side but she was a fighter. She went into the selection process with her eyes open. She worked on the basis that the best man or woman would win on the night. At Newbury she was wonderfully vindicated. She won the selection with a very clear majority over the other contestants.

Once adopted, she threw herself with her usual energy into the task of becoming known in the constituency. Then something remarkable happened. Having left the Civil Service to become a prospective Parliamentary candidate she received a telephone call from the new prime minister, John Major, asking her to join him at 10 Downing Street as head of his political office. She accepted so long as she could remain a Conservative candidate for Newbury.

It must have been a gruelling time for her. A new prime minister finding his feet while she was trying to be present at all the branch functions and other responsibilities that fall to a prospective candidate. She never flinched. She had taken on two jobs and she intended to do them as well as she could. And she did. Her own majority of 12,000 at the general election surprised and delighted her but like most things in her life she deserved it. In Parliament she became an active member of the Treasury Select Committee. There, as on the floor of the House, her contributions were apt and to the point. She might have come with the prestige of being close to the Prime Minister but she wasn't going to let that persuade her to rest on her laurels.

She intended to be an active backbencher and represent Newbury to the best of her considerable abilities. She became involved in the life of the constituency, took up many local causes and bought a house in the area.

Judith Chaplin was a good-natured and immediately likeable person. She was wonderfully supported by her second husband, Michael Chaplin. He was always there to encourage and support her. Her death will be keenly felt by her family and her many friends in Newbury and in Parliament.

(Photograph omitted)

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

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam