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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Dame Helena: Lottery loser
Dame Helena Shovelton
By Andrew Walker of the BBC's News Profiles Unit

Dame Helena Shovelton lists her hobbies in Who's Who as "looking at the garden" and "golf".

Following her resignation as chairman of the National Lottery Commission, she will have more time to enjoy both.

The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster for Dame Helena. In August, she announced, to much popular and press acclaim, that the current Lottery operator, Camelot, was to be excluded from bidding for the next seven-year Lottery licence.

On the board of the Citizens Advice Bureau
As Chairman of the Citizens Advice Bureaux
This paved the way for a rival bid by Sir Richard Branson's People's Lottery.

But on 22 September, Mr Justice Richards in the High Court resurrected Camelot's bid, ruling that the commission's dealings with Camelot had shown "a marked lack of even-handedness".

"I have no doubt the commission was trying to be fair," he said, but added tellingly, "there is in my judgment no escaping the conclusion that the procedure decided on by the commission was conspicuously unfair to Camelot."

From that moment, with the full weight of the Press on her back, Dame Helena's days on the commission were numbered.

This is the first blip in a high-flying and highly paid career in public service.

She was born in 1945, the daughter of Denis Richards, the Royal Air Force's official wartime historian.

Brought up in north London, she studied business at Regent Street Polytechnic and married Patrick Shovelton in 1968.

Dame Helena Shovelton
In the eye of the Lottery storm
Her husband is a cousin of Patrick Pearse, a leader of the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising who was shot by the British.

He is a notable figure in the civil aviation and shipping industries who, as a civil servant, was a leading player in Britain's EEC entry negotiations during the early 1970s.

Dame Helena's public career began with the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Tunbridge Wells.

She went on to chair the organisation's national association, a favourite target of right-leaning tabloids, from 1994 to 1999.

She has also served as chairman of the Audit Commission and as a member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and the Local Government Commission.

Tony Blair recognised her public service with a Damehood in 1998.

But those who paint Helena Shovelton as a "trendy leftie do-gooder" may have missed the mark.

"She is not a party political animal," says a current colleague.

"She is as far away from being a Blairite as you could get. Very independent. I'm sure that she has felt very hurt by all the gossip about her political affiliations."

The balls of the National Lottery
Lottery has brought her no luck
How ironic, then, that the woman at the centre of such bitter discord was once the managing director of a dating agency called Gentlepeople, where she vetted prospective lovebirds.

Dame Helena seems to have been caught, not between the devil and the deep blue sea, but between a press with its own vested interests and a public which baulks at those who, like her, can earn 80,000 a year for three part-time jobs.

Her colleague believes that Dame Helena will be relieved to have left the Lottery Commission.

"I expect she'll be glad to be out of this grubby political world. She didn't take the job out of ambition. She was asked to fill a vacancy and took the job with high principles in mind."

Whatever the case, Dame Helena Shovelton, with years of experience in public life behind her, has paid a heavy price for her part in what has become a fight to the end for control of the National Lottery.

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