WHEN Theresa May visited Dorset during last year's EU referendum campaign, Judy Jamieson went to greet her in her role as a regional campaign director.

She reminded herself several times that morning to refer to Mrs May as 'Home Secretary' when she arrived.

"Hello Judy," the soon-to-be Prime Minister said as she got out of the car.

"Hello Theresa," she replied, immediately kicking herself for this little breach of protocol.

But she could get away with it, not least because she had been instrumental in helping Mrs May's political career take off when she was a mere prospective parliamentary candidate looking for a seat.

As an employee of the Tory party who became one of its most influential and respected political agents, Judy had been on first name terms with every Conservative leader and Prime Minister, from Ted Heath onwards.

It was Heath who encouraged to work for the party in the 1960s.

Judy Jamieson was born in Bournemouth in 1950 and attended Beaufort School.

She developed an interest in politics from her parents, even making a representation over a traffic issue in Southbourne to a meeting of Bournemouth council in her teens.

She became chairman of Bournemouth Young Conservatives.

Judy had a variety of roles as a Conservative staffer in the early years, including working for the youth and community team at Central Office.

Even then it was clear she had the makings of a political operator. She grasped the essentials of political campaigning, could knock candidates into shape, was a consummate organiser and got things done.

In the 1983 'Falklands' election she was sent down to Southampton to look after Christopher Chope's campaign.

One of the first things she told him to call himself Chris - or he probably wouldn't get elected.

In 1984 she was appointed as the full time agent for Christchurch and Lymington, then held by Robert Adley.

He died of a heart attack in 1993 by which time it was Christchurch and East Dorset.

At the by-election the Conservative majority was overturned in a spectacular reverse by Diana Maddock of the Liberal Democrats.

Although it was a crushing defeat - overseen by a team parachuted in by Central Office, Judy admitted it was an entertaining if chaotic campaign which she secretly rather enjoyed.

But while bosses from Conservative Central Office did their best to interfere in an election conducted in the glare of the national media, she told them: "I'm the agent, and nothing goes out without my name on it."

That year she was elected as chief spokesman for all Conservative agents in the country - giving her a powerful voice on the national stage.

She also spoke twice from the platform at that conference. On the second occasion she was unaware that she would be called and was busy writing her shopping list when she was announced. She winged it.

Normal service was resumed in 1997 when the Conservatives won back Christchurch with Chris Chope.

Over many years Judy won for herself, locally and nationally, the reputation as the ultimate election strategist.

At its heart, her approach was simple.

"Three things win elections," she said in an interview with the Daily Echo for the 1997 campaign. "Find your support. Record it and get it out on polling day."

From her HQ above the Conservative Club in Bargates, she ran slick, computerised local, national and European campaigns year after year. She ensured no detail was overlooked, all doors were knocked, every pledge noted and every piece of campaign literature was approved by her.

She tried to ensure that candidates didn't do anything stupid and kept them on a tight leash. She did not suffer fools gladly. "Candidates are just a legal necessity," she often joked.

During general election campaigns she took responsibility for a number of seats across the south, would play key part in the process of selecting national candidates ("one of the trusted few") and acted as an adviser to the Conservative party.

Judy also lectured and acted as an election trainer and observer in emerging democracies like Poland and Ukraine after the fall of communism.

Away from party politics, Judy was a tireless campaigner with her husband Cllr Colin Jamieson, on community issues.

As chairman of Burton Parish Council for years, she fought on matters as wide-ranging as speeding, flooding, Christmas lights, gravel extraction, saving the green belt and village bus services.

The pair established the Armed Forces Day in Burton because they didn't believe enough was being done to thank the work and sacrifices of those serving in the military at home and abroad.

Judy also served as chairman of governors at Priory School, a role she loved and despite not having children of her own and claiming not to like them much she was a natural with the pupils.

Head teacher Claire King, said she made a "significant difference to school improvements".

"She was a formidable lady. Her mantra was 'every child matters'. It was a privilege to work with her, she will be a massive loss in the whole community."

She was a keen sailor and played with the Christchurch and District Band, of which she was patron.

Steff Emmett, director of music and a personal friend of Judy's said: "Our loss is great but her legacy will live on.

"A courageous and inspirational lady who will be forever missed."

Judy was also a prodigious storyteller. Colin said: "Her stories alway got better with the retelling and seldom had anything to do with the facts!"

  • Judy Jamieson's funeral takes place at Christchurch on Tuesday June 13 at 11am.