Five businesswomen primed for politics

So Karren Brady wants to ditch the Apprentice for politics, eh? Well, it set us thinking. Here we reflect on notable female public figures that look like they could be on the verge of a political career...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The UK's 22-strong cabinet has just four female ministers - so Karren Brady's admission that she fancies the idea of life on the front bench has been seized upon by political pundits. But let's not stop at Brady. Read on for our top five sharp, smart women who would inject a bit of business savvy into cabinet meetings.

Cynthia Carroll, 57 – Former CEO Anglo American

Recently departed as CEO of mining giant Anglo American, Carroll was one of the very small number of female CEOs in the FTSE 100 list of companies. Before she left, she mounted an open criticism of the short-termism of shareholders, saying great results could not be achieved without many years of forward investment. Her success in business and her feisty rebukes suggest she could make a formidable frontbencher, and be suitably combative at the dispatch box.

Angela Ahrendts, 50 – CEO Burberry

Ahrendts has transformed an iconic but modest British brand into a powerful international fashion house during recession years. Sales across the group rose 13% to £840m in the six months to the end of March, better than analysts had expected, and mainly thanks to expansion in Asian markets. Ahrendts would make a good business secretary, if you ask us. The only problem is, she is notriously publicity-shy - something you can't really say of the current crop of frontbenchers.

Amanda Stavely, 37 – Investor

Staveley is a woman who knows how to get a deal off. Among her notable achievements was a £7.3bn investment in Barclays by royal families in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East, which earned her £40m commission. At a time when the domestic market is sputtering, someone who can get on a plane and help British firms do deals in faraway lands is a good bet. Not to mention helping with party fund-raising...

Hilary Mantel, 60 - Author

The author of Booker-Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Mantel is one of the most celebrated wordsmiths in the UK. She caught political attention when she described the Duchess of Cambridge as a 'vessel whose sole purpose is to produce an heir', provoking public reactions from political figures such as Ed Miliband and David Cameron, and sparking debate about the Duchess’ public persona. Just the kind of incisive, intellectual and honest appraisal of social issues politics could do with a bit more of. She'd probably have to stand as an independent though...

Joanna Lumley 67 - Actress

The Absolutely Fabulous star made herself a vehicle for political discussion back in 2008 when she spearheaded a campaign to get retired Gurkha servicemen the right to live in Britain. She has also been involved in several other campaigns and charitable causes, suggesting she might have the tireless quality those politicians need. And then there's her national treasure status...

- It's women in business week next week on MT. Stay tuned for interviews with Team Sky's Fran Millar and GDST chief executive Helen Fisher - with the big reveal on 35 Under 35 next Monday

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