Tabitha Kinsey, MP Oxford West & Abingdon
AVATAR: Emily Gilmore (Actress's name is Kelly Bishop)
Early Life and Family History
Born in 1956, in Weybridge, Surrey (Nee: Tabitha Cooper)
FAMILY: The Cooper family has long been wealthy and powerful, albeit not necessarily political. Tabitha’s great-grandfather Allan owned an insurance syndicate the eventually fell under the Lloyd’s of London umbrella, which made the family a tremendous amount of wealth that only grew when well invested across several different businesses, real estate holdings and elsewhere. Her paternal grandfather, Marcus, was a Colonel in the British Second Army in World War 1 while a maternal grandmother (Agnes) was the daughter of the Ambassador of France.
Her father, Peter (born in 1932) followed the family footsteps to become the chief of managing agents at Lloyd’s of London. Her mother, Tess (Griffith), was the second daughter of a prominent managing partner at Barclay’s (Stephen, whom Tabitha was very close with). While not working, Tess had read history at Girton College, Cambridge.
Tabitha is the third of four siblings. Her oldest brother, Alan is a corporate attorney. Her youngest sister, Virginia (“Ginnie”) is a professor of literature at Princeton University, where she lives with her husband. A second brother, Marcus, tragically passed away in his early 20s, from a drug overdose.
Educated at St. Leonard’s Mayfield
Read Classics and Economics at Girton College, Cambridge, First Class Honours (Graduated in 1978)
After graduation from Girton, and with two gap years spent traveling in both France and America, Tabitha decided to enter the world of banking in following her beloved grandfather’s footsteps at Barclays, and landing a junior level position in its investment banking team for mergers and acquisitions. But as this was the early 1980s, Tabitha was still one of the few females working for the bank beyond secretarial/administrative roles. But her keen mind and sharp elbows helped her navigate her path forward into becoming an analyst first for its equities side (first given fashion retail as her area of focus before moving to energy) and then as an international fixed income analyst for mature nations, which allowed her to travel to other nations to give the bank’s well-heeled advice about investing in government bonds, before heading up an expanding division in analysis of mortgage-backed securities.
She married her husband, Theodore, in 1985. A former Olympic distance runner, Theodore had decided to stay away from the business world and instead became an academic and well-respected professor in sociology at King’s College. Unable to have children on their own, the two adopted twins from Romania (after the fall of Ceaucescu) in 1993, named Penelope and Logan. Penelope has just graduated from Girton College and plans on a career in philanthropic work. Logan decided to attend college in America, where he recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in economics and will attend graduate school at Yale University in the coming year.
Tabitha did face a major setback in her career at Barclays. Despite her lofty position and hefty goals, Tabitha still ran into the “glass ceiling” and was not able to break through to the upper levels of the company. Despite her success and experiences, she was passed over three separate times to lead the firm’s analysis division for male colleagues her junior. She famously broke protocol and spilled the beans about sexism at the bank in an 1996 interview with Financial Times, which led to her controversial departure and embarrassment for the financial institution.
(As she famously and cheekilly wrote: “You don’t rise up the ranks in international banking without putting people to the sword. It’s just that, ultimately, if you’re a woman, you run into a different type of sword - usually flaccid, and wielded by the truly unimpressive, but a weapon that has gone undefeated for centuries.)
After her departure from the bank, Tabitha decided to take a break from professional work and focused on raising her children, along with participating in different charities like the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, as well as doing hands-on volunteer work through her church in deprived areas of London, Liverpool and Birmingham. She also briefly started her own boutique consultancy for international financing analysis.
In 1999, Theodore was offered the position of Rector at Exeter College in Oxford. The family moved to the nearby Abingdon Constituency. Tabitha quickly became involved in council affairs and developed a well-earned reputation for community responsiveness, including a campaign to repair the constituency’s aging playgrounds. This marked the first step in the new career she had mapped out for herself as a politician. Despite her outspokenness about the treatment of professional women, Tabitha was a through-and-through Conservative who frequently cited Margaret Thatcher as her hero.
These years also allowed her some time to polish her image. Always stylish, Tabitha soon started to “look the part” of a woman of inherited wealth as opposed to the business look she adapted while in the professional world, moving heavily into plaid patterns, jackets and skirts. She also started to host a weekly dinner party at her family’s house, which paired up academics at nearby Oxford along with business leaders and politicians she had become friendly with over the years.
Highly educated with a keen mind, Tabitha has brought her “dinner party” mentality with her to Parliament. She's renowned (or mocked, depending on your approach) for her eternally sunny optimism and has adopted the mantra of "every morning cup of tea is the start of a great new day." She's also has a strong women-first mentality to her public statements, always celebrating fellow women in politics, and believing her ultimate responsibility to brighten the future for every woman in the UK no matter their beliefs. However, she learned the lessons of the old boy’s club in the banking world, prompting another famous quote: “The best part about hosting so many dinner parties is that you don’t just learn what knife to use for what course, but what knife to use when plunging it into the back of someone truly incapable.”
Her hobbies include reading trashy novels, wine collecting, ballroom dancing and - shockingly - keeping up with the latest in pop culture.
Tabitha was elected the MP in Oxford West and Abingdon in 2001 and has held that position ever since.
A backbencher until 2004, Tabitha has held the following positions since:
Shadow Secretary of Women (2004-2006)
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (2006-2007)
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (2007-2010)
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (2010-2012)
Secretary of State for International Trade (2012-Current)
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