Baroness Trumpington, Bletchley Park code-breaker with celebrated V-sign, dies

Baroness Trumpington, a Bletchley Park code-breaker famed for flicking two fingers up at a fellow Tory peer, has died at the age of 96, her son has said.

Tributes came from across the political spectrum after Adam Barker announced that the former Conservative minister died on Monday afternoon.

Lady Trumpington only bowed out from the House of Lords, where she was celebrated as one of Parliament’s most colourful characters, last year.

Baroness Trumpington with the Yeomen of the Guard in the House of Lords Credit: PA

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt celebrated her as a “trailblazer, heroine and an utter joy”.

Mr Barker said she had “a bloody good innings”, as he tweeted: “My mother passed away this afternoon in her sleep.”

Lady Trumpington spent 37 years as a Conservative peer and had spells as a minister and a government whip.

James Cleverly, an MP and deputy chairman of the Conservative party, tweeted: “So sad to hear that code breaking, two finger wagging, Baroness Trumpington has passed away. Ma’am, we salute you.”

Ms Mordaunt wrote: “Deepest sympathies to all who knew and loved this incredible woman. Socialite, mother, Bletchley Park code breaker, Baroness, Minister, trailblazer, heroine and an utter joy.”

Fellow Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said she was “a huge inspiration”.

She tweeted: “She always had time to deliver a good telling off, give advice or pay a compliment. I had the privilege of being at the receiving end of all three!”

Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said her passing was “so sad… But what a life”.

He tweeted: “Royal Navy, Bletchley Park code cracker, councillor, mayor, MP, Minister, UK Rep at UN, Baroness-in-Waiting to the Queen and contestant on ‘Have I got News For You’!”

Mental Health Minster Jackie Doyle-Price said Lady Trumpington was “unique”, adding: “When I grow up I want to be just like her.”

Conservative MP Simon Hoare said the peer was “a total one off and will be missed by many”.

“A real national treasure (and she’d have hated that epithet) May she Rest in Peace,” he tweeted.

Tim Farron, MP and former Liberal Democrat leader, said she was “admirable, decent and unique”, while Labour MP Kevin Brennan celebrated his “admiration for a remarkable woman”.

Lady Trumpington shot to fame in 2011 when she was caught on camera in the Lords chamber flicking a V-sign at a fellow Tory peer over what she perceived as a rude remark about her age.

Baroness Trumpington retired from the House of Lords at the age of 95 last year Credit: PA

During the Second World War, she was a “Land Girl” for David Lloyd George before working in naval intelligence at the Bletchley Park code-breaking headquarters.

Before entering Parliament, Lady Trumpington was a Cambridge councillor, rising to become mayor in 1971.

She took her seat in the Lords in 1980 and was a government whip and minister during several periods in the 1980s and 90s.

Born Jean Alys Campbell-Harris on October 23 1922, she married Alan Barker after returning to England following a spell in the United States.

Baroness Trumpington shot to fame when she was caught on camera in the Lords chamber apparently flicking a V-sign at a fellow Tory peer Credit: PA
  • Here are some of her most memorable quotes

On ageing: “You don’t give a damn about what you say. Other people’s opinions matter less — unless they’re medical.”

On amiably flicking two fingers at former Tory Defence Secretary, Lord King, in the House of Lords: “It was entirely between him and me — I thought. I wasn’t conscious of there being television cameras there. I did that to his face. His family say he is famous now.”

On self-defence: “If you are ever attacked in the street do not shout ‘Help!’, shout ‘Fire!’. People adore fires and always come rushing. Nobody will come if you shout ‘Help’.”

On growing old disgracefully: “At the age of 80, there are very few pleasures left to me, but one of them is passive smoking.”

On daring to contradict Margaret Thatcher: “I thought: if I’m not true to myself, I might as well not exist. Therefore, I’ll say what I think and if that’s wrong, she can sack me. We fought each other verbally and I would stick to my guns and she would provoke me on purpose, and that was useful to her. It meant she was ready for other opponents.”

  • Former Minister for Transport Norman Fowler

Former Minister for Transport Norman Fowler knew Baroness Trumpington well and remembers how she did not always follow the party line.

"She would, very occasionally, go off script. I remember we sent her off to have lunch in one of these press lunches - three or four journalists around the table - and we told her all about our brilliant record in building hospitals and treating patients and all that.

"She went, she talked to them and the headline the next month said 'Minister Backs State-Run Brothels' and we thought 'that wasn't what we said at all'."