About Ann Taylor
Ann Taylor was first elected to the House of Commons in October 1974, serving as the Labour MP for Bolton West until 1983. Three years later she was appointed as Assistant Government Whip in James Callaghan’s government, the first woman to hold such a post.
The role of a Whip is to ensure the government’s proposed legislation is successfully steered through the House of Commons by ‘whipping-in’ the required number of votes – something of a challenge for Callaghan’s minority government.
The Bolton West constituency was redrawn in 1983, with Taylor losing her seat in that year’s General Election. However, she returned to the Commons in 1987 as the MP for Dewsbury. Following the 1997 General Election, she served as Leader of the House of Commons under Tony Blair, before being appointed Government Chief Whip in 1998.
Taylor served as Chief Whip from 1998 to 2001, whipping votes on the reform of the House of Lords, devolution and the national minimum wage. She was the first woman to serve as Chief Whip, though was followed by fellow Labour MPs Hilary Armstrong (2001-06) and Jacqui Smith (2006-09). Ann Taylor was also the first woman Leader of the Commons and the first woman President of the Privy Council.
After stepping down as an MP in 2005, Taylor entered the House of Lords as Baroness Taylor of Bolton. She subsequently served as Minister of Defence Procurement (2007-08) and Minister of State for International Defence (2008-10).
Commissioning the artwork
This photograph, by leading British photographer Nick Sinclair, was taken when Taylor was Leader of the House of Commons. Commissioned by the House of Commons Works of Art Committee, it forms part of a series of portraits of Leaders and Shadow Leaders of the Commons taken by Sinclair during the 1990s.
At the time of the commission, Sinclair was completing a separate series of parliamentarians’ portraits called Parliamentary Companion.
In these works, which became the first of 148 of his photographs to enter the National Portrait Gallery collection, the face of the sitter takes up the entire frame.
For his House of Commons commission, Sinclair decided to take both close-up photographs and wider shots, depicting the subjects in context around the Parliamentary Estate. These images, such as that of Ann Taylor, show the influence of noted photographer and MP
Sir Benjamin Stone’s portraits of parliamentarians from the turn of the twentieth century.
Following the commission, Sinclair went on to produce similar portraits of leading British scientists and senior doctors. More recently, he has worked on photographic projects that focus on human responses to the changing environment.
Image: Detail of Nick Sinclair, ‘The Rt Hon Ann Taylor MP’, monochrome photographic print, c.1994 (WOA 5201)