She read sociology at the University of Essex, and later studied at the London School of Economics. She was a researcher for Child Poverty Action Group and then became a social worker. Her "street cred" increased considerably in later years, when it become known that she had given birth to an illegitimate child during this period.
She entered Parliament in 1984, as Member for Surrey South West, and got her first ministerial position in 1988, as junior Environment minister, and was appointed Minister of Health in 1989. In John Major's cabinet, she progressed upwards, serving as Secretary of State for Health from 1992 to 1995, and then Secretary of State for National Heritage from 1995 to 1997.
There was much mirth when it was revealed to the general public that her name is an anagram of 'I'm an evil Tory Bigot'.
Since the 1997 general election, she has remained an opposition backbencher. She is considered to be a 'One Nation Tory'. In 2002 she announced that she will not contest the next election.
She is married to Peter Bottomley, who is also a Member of Parliament.