UK Politics

Baroness Trumpington explains two-fingered gesture

A Conservative peer has explained why she made a two-fingered gesture at a colleague during a debate in the House of Lords but insisted they were still "jolly good friends".

Baroness Trumpington took exception at remarks by ex-Cabinet minister Lord King suggesting veterans of the World War Two were getting "pretty old".

The peer, 89, worked at code-breaking facility Bletchley Park during the war.

She said she meant the gesture but tried to pretend "her hand slipped".

The exchange between Baroness Trumpington and the former defence secretary took place in the House of Lords last month during a debate on the armistice, and became a huge hit on the internet.

Lord King was recalling how gradually the survivors of World War I "faded away" and "then the survivors of WWII started to look pretty old as well".

He then noted that Baroness Trumpington was the House's only remaining survivor from WWII, prompting the peer's response.

'I meant it'

Reflecting on the incident, she told BBC Parliament that Lord King "to my horror suddenly said, more or less, even the people who worked in the last war, are starting to look very, very old.

"I thought to 'hell with that'. It was just meant to be between him and me.

"I did actually raise two fingers and I tried to pretend my hand had slipped but it was going to be quite obvious that my hand had not slipped and I meant it.

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Media captionHow Baroness Trumpington reacted to her colleague's comments

"In point of fact, he and I are jolly good friends. I just thought he had gone too far looking at me and saying 'how old I look'."

As Jean Barker, she served at Bletchley Park, whose code breaking techniques were instrumental in the war effort, between 1941 and 1946.

After the war, she worked in local government - becoming Mayor of Cambridge - before entering the Lords in 1980 and becoming a minister in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Baroness Trumpington added that very few of the speakers in the Lord's debate - held to mark Armistice Day in November - were alive during the Second World War

She added: "I think memory is very short unless you have actually experienced it [war] yourself."

Of Bletchley Park she said: "The German U-boat code was broken, and that meant that the U-boats couldn't attack our supplies and our men going to the Middle East before Alamein. It was all to do with that, that we were working."

* You can watch the full interview in The Record Review on BBC Parliament at 2300 GMT on Wednesday. It will be repeated a number of times over the festive season. You can also watch it online from Thursday.

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