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Tessa Blackstone

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Tessa Blackstone

Tessa Ann Vosper Blackstone, Baroness Blackstone,[1][2] PC, born 1942, is an English politician and university administrator.

Academic background

Blackstone was educated at Ware Grammar School for Girls and the London School of Economics, where she gained a doctorate. Her academic career began at the former Enfield College (now Middlesex University) before she went on to become a lecturer at the LSE and Professor of Educational Administration at the University of London Institute of Education. She has also held research fellowships at the Centre for Studies in Public Policy and the Policy Studies Institute.

Further career

It was said that 'her patrician manner is at odds with the horror she has inspired in Conservative quarters' (Donald MacLeod).

However, her background is middle-class: her father was the chief fire officer for Hertfordshire, her mother an actor and model for the House of Worth in Paris. A brother, Timothy Blackstone, was a porn star in the 1970s and was convicted of insider trading in 2003.[3] Although once known as the 'Red Baroness' despite her particular interests and personal manner, she has served as chairman of the ballet board of the Royal Opera House, the Fabian Society, and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), and has sat on the governing bodies of numerous other organisations.

Deputy Education Officer of the Inner London Education Authority (1983–86). She has also worked as a policy adviser in the Cabinet Office. Blackstone was known as a "dark-eyed evil genius" when, as a member of Jim Callaghan's Downing Street thinktank, she upset the Foreign Office by criticizing diplomats' lavish lifestyles.

She headed Birkbeck College, University of London, for a decade as Master (from 1987 to 1997) until her appointment to the new Labour government in 1997. She has been on the Board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation.


Originally on the Opposition front bench in House of Lords, Blackstone held a succession of portfolios during her time at Birkbeck.

Self-described as 'vintage' rather than old or new Labour, Blackstone was Minister for Education at the Department of Education from 1997 to 2001 then Minister for the Arts at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport 2001–2003.

She is a Labour life peer in the House of Lords and sits as Baroness Blackstone, of Stoke Newington in Greater London.

On 15 September 2010, Blackstone, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[4]

Current activities

In 2004, Blackstone became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. She is a Vice-President of the British Humanist Association and chairs the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) trust. In 2009, she became the Chair at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and later in 2010, she became Chair at British Library. A 4-year term. In September 2012, she joined the board of the Orbit Group housing association as its future Chair. [5]


Her many publications, which mainly cover education and social policy issues, include:

  • ‘Disadvantage and Education’ with Jo Mortimore (Heinemann, 1982)
  • ‘Race Relations in Britain’ with Bhikhu Parekh and Peter Saunders (Routledge, 1997)

In the national media, she has broadcast and written extensively.


External links

  • Vice-Chancellor – Baroness Blackstone at University of Greenwich
  • Donald MacLeod, "Tessa Blackstone: Naval gazing"
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister for Higher and Further Education
Succeeded by
Margaret Hodge
Preceded by
Alan Howarth
Minister for the Arts
Succeeded by
Estelle Morris
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