The Baroness Featherstone
|Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change|
29 July 2015 - 7 February 2019
|Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs|
7 January 2015 - 16 July 2015
|Minister of State for Home Affairs|
4 November 2014 - 8 May 2015
|The Lord Bates|
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development|
4 September 2012 - 4 November 2014
|The Baroness Northover|
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities|
13 May 2010 - 4 September 2012
|Maria Eagle (Minister of State)|
|Spokesman for Youth and Equality Issues|
2 July 2007 - 13 May 2010
|Member of the House of Lords |
20 October 2015
|Member of Parliament |
for Hornsey and Wood Green
5 May 2005 - 30 March 2015
|Member of the London Assembly|
as the 4th Additional Member
4 May 2000 - 6 June 2005
Lynne Choona Ryness
20 December 1951
Highgate, Middlesex, UK
|Political party||Liberal Democrats|
|Spouse(s)||Stephen Featherstone |
|Alma mater||Oxford Polytechnic|
|a. ^ Office vacant from 12 May 2010 to 7 January 2015.|
A Member of the London Assembly (MLA) from 2000 to 2005, she was Member of Parliament (MP) for Hornsey and Wood Green between 2005 and 2015, before being nominated for a peerage in the Dissolution Peerages List 2015. She was created Baroness Featherstone, of Highgate in the London Borough of Haringey, on 20 October.
Under the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010 she was appointed as a Home Office Minister with responsibility for criminal information and equalities, before being promoted, in 2012, Minister with responsibility for International Development. Previously she was Liberal Democrat spokesman for Youth and Equality issues, and chair of the Liberal Democrats technology board. As originator and architect of the same sex marriage law during the coalition, Featherstone launched the consultation by the UK Government on introducing same-sex marriage and was the first politician to take part in the Out4Marriage campaign, and returned to the Home Office as Minister of State in November 2014.
Featherstone lost her parliamentary seat to Catherine West, the Labour candidate, in 2015, subsequently being nominated by former Deputy PM, the Rt Hon Nick Clegg for a Life Peerage in the Dissolution Honours 2015. Featherstone took her seat as a member of the House of Lords on the Opposition benches on 26 November 2015.
Featherstone was born and brought up in North London, and educated at Highgate Primary School, the independent South Hampstead High School (then a direct grant grammar school) and gained a Diploma in Communication and Design at Oxford Polytechnic. Her family business started by her parents was the Ryness chain of lighting and electrical shops in London.The business was sold over a decade ago.[when?]
In 1998, Featherstone was elected a Councillor for the London Borough of Haringey representing Muswell Hill Ward. She and her two colleagues (June Andersen and Julia Glenn) were the first three Liberal Democrats to be elected borough councillors. She became Leader of Liberal Democrat Group (and thereby Opposition Leader) on the Council 1998-2003.
Although she stood down from Haringey Council before the May 2006 elections, Featherstone influenced the 2006 local elections in Haringey where Labour's majority was cut from 25 to 3, with 30 Labour Councillors elected to 27 Liberal Democrats.
From 2000 until 2005, Featherstone was a Member of the London Assembly; during this time, she was Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee. She was also a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority for all five years she was on the London Assembly. She was replaced as MLA by Geoff Pope.
Featherstone was promoted by some as a potential Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London in the 2008 election. In response to a poll on the Liberal Democrat Voice website, she ruled herself out, stating that, of the other people in the poll, she would back Brian Paddick.
Featherstone first contested the Hornsey and Wood Green seat at the 1997 general election where she finished in third place some 25,998 votes behind the winner Barbara Roche. She again fought Hornsey and Wood Green at the 2001 general election, moving into second place and reducing Roche's majority to 10,614. In one of the largest swings at the 2005 general election, Featherstone defeated Roche with a majority of 2,395 votes.
She was co-chair of Chris Huhne's unsuccessful campaign to be leader of the Liberal Democrats following the resignation of Kennedy in January 2006. In March, following the election of Menzies Campbell as party leader, she was promoted to number two in the Liberal Democrat home affairs team and made London spokesperson. In December 2006, she succeeded Susan Kramer as the Liberal Democrat Shadow International Development Secretary, and two months later was succeeded by Tom Brake as London spokesperson.
In 2007, following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell, she again chaired Chris Huhne's leadership election campaign. On 20 December 2007 the new Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who defeated Chris Huhne, made her Youth and Equalities spokesperson.
On 5 February 2013, Featherstone voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom, the bill which she spearhead as Minister of State at the Home Office and got passed through the Commons despite Conservative backbench MP resistance. She was given a score of 93% in favour of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality by Stonewall.
Following the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, Haringey Council initiated an internal audit Serious Case Review (SCR). Although the actual report was completed months earlier, the Executive Summary of the report was released immediately after the resulting court case had completed. The full details of the report have been kept confidential. Featherstone had been particularly critical of Haringey Council, writing "I personally met with George Meehan and Ita O'Donovan - Haringey Council's Leader and Chief Executive - to raise with them three different cases, where the pattern was in each case Haringey seeming to want to blame anyone who complained rather than to look at the complaint seriously. I was promised action - but despite repeated subsequent requests for news on progress - I was just stonewalled."
In November 2008, at Prime Minister's Questions, Featherstone asked the Prime Minister to order an enquiry into the Connelly Case. She was Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on Haringey Council at the time of the murder of Victoria Climbié.
In April 2006, one of Featherstone's researchers received a hoax email warning about an apparent date rape drug called Progesterex. Featherstone submitted a question to the Labour Government Minister enquiring as to "what assessment he has made of the use of Progesterex in cases of date rape". Paul Goggins pronounced to the House of Commons that Progesterex did not exist: "It has been the subject of a hoax e-mail", he said. The hoax first originated in 1999. Featherstone criticised the Minister's response, stating "they need to do more to discover the unearthly monster who sends them out" and that "their cavalier attitude will not do". However, critics such as fellow Liberal Democrat James Graham castigated Featherstone's conduct in "criticising the Home Office for not having a response to made up drugs and made up crimes", stating "trivialising rape in this way without bothering to do basic research first doesn't help anybody".
She came to the attention of the national media in 2008 when she was criticised by Conservative Member of the London Assembly Brian Coleman for calling 999 (the UK's emergency number) when her boiler began making noises and sparking. Coleman referred to her as a "dizzy airhead", Featherstone responded by calling his comments "sexist" and "political" in nature. A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman told BBC News: "If it's obvious that there has been an ongoing problem with the boiler, then you can call a plumber. But if your boiler suddenly starts making strange noises in the middle of the night, call the fire brigade."
In January 2013, she tweeted that John Mulholland, editor of The Observer, should have been sacked for publishing a "rant against the transgender community" in Julie Burchill's column which she described as "bigoted vomit", receiving a backlash as a result.
In April 2007, Featherstone was required to return large quantities of parliamentary stationery after her House of Commons office ordered £22,000 worth in the previous month in an attempt to beat new rules on stationery allowances. Featherstone blamed a staff member for the incident, declaring that she "knew nothing". In a leaked email, parliamentary official Cliff Harris reportedly stated "it's quite alarming when you see that Lynne Featherstone spent over £22,000 in one month, the equivalent to three years' of the new-capped rate". Featherstone subsequently said she would be putting in place "better office procedures".
Under the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010 she was appointed as a Minister in the Home Office as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Criminal Information and Equalities. Equalities. Featherstone caused waves by pre-announcing her appointment prior to the official announcement in the expectation of forcing compromises from the Tories regarding her policy "aims", despite Home Secretary Theresa May being noted for not favouring homosexual equality.
In December 2010, Featherstone introduced a move that would allow positive discrimination which is primarily aimed at addressing female under-representation in the workforce. It will also mean that a manager will be able lawfully to hire a black man over a white man, a homosexual man over a heterosexual man, if they have the same skill set. Featherstone, denied the plans were about "political correctness, or red tape, or quotas" and would "help make the workplace fairer".
In September 2011, Featherstone caused controversy by claiming men make "terrible decisions" when they are in charge. Speaking at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference Featherstone blamed men for the mess the world was in, and commentators drew parallels with similar comments by one of Featherstone's predecessors, Harriet Harman. Her comments attracted criticism from across the political spectrum and were considered particularly inappropriate given her role as a minister in charge of ending sexism. Conservative MP Priti Patel said: "these comments are really ill-thought out. As Equalities Minister she has got to be unbiased about the value that both men and women bring to decision-making."Elizabeth Day of The Observer newspaper was equally troubled by the remarks, writing "the notion that women are not as aggressive as men, that we would all just sit around a table eating red velvet cupcakes and talking out the world's problems rather than firing off phallic-shaped nuclear weapons is a complete fallacy".
On 5 September 2012 she was confirmed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow in September 2013, she supported Liberal Democrat policy to prosecute those responsible for cases where girls are sent abroad to have female genital mutilation carried out, or where it is carried out in the UK. In November 2014, she was promoted to Minister of State for Crime Prevention going back to the Home office.
In 2006, Featherstone was shortlisted in the "Rising Stars" category of the Channel 4 political awards, but did not win. She has also been nominated for the prestigious "Woman of the Year" award.
Featherstone was nominated for the Stonewall Politician of the Year Award in both 2009 and 2012 for her work to support equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Lynne was awarded Stonewall Politician of the Year (jointly), Attitude Magazine Politician of the Year and PinkNews Ally of the Year for her initiative on same-sex marriage and work on LGBT rights.
She married Stephen Featherstone in Haringey in 1982, but divorced in 1996; they have two children.