Baroness Lane-Fox* of Soho has only been a member of the Lords for a matter of months, but she’s already raised a few bristly eyebrows by bagging her own coathook in the Peers’ Entrance. ‘One of them bustled up and asked, «How did you manage that? Normally you have to wait for ages!'» That’s Martha for you. She may be petite, as softly spoken as a mouse with laryngitis and still walking with a cane after a catastrophic car accident in 2004 that left her pelvis shattered, but don’t even think about messing.
Oxford-educated Martha, 40, is still most often referred to as the co-founder oflastminute.com, which she set up in 1998. But since selling the company in 2005 (she reportedly netted £13m), she’s kept herself busy, busy, busy: working with the Government to roll out digital skills across Britain, overseeing her karaoke chain LuckyVoice, serving as a Marks & Spencer non-exec (she’s tactfully wearing M&S for this shoot), sitting on the board for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and now contributing to the Lords as a ‘not very cross-bencher’.
Why Soho? ‘I wanted Hyde Park, because that’s where I first walked as a child and where I learned to walk again after the accident. But that wasn’t allowed, so I picked Soho, where my working life is.’ Home is in Marylebone with her boyfriend Chris Gorell Barnes, and their two Bengal cats, although they do globetrot a bit — ‘I love being by the sea. That’s where my body feels most normal.’
When her elevated position was announced in February, she vowed to shake things up. ‘Get free cocktails and nipple tassels, right?’ she tweeted, to her 56,000 followers. Those crusty old peers are in for a treat.