Karen Olivia King (born June 23, 1971) is a Scottish conservative politician and entrepreneur who has served as Prime Minister of Scotland since 2011, as well as leader of the Reform Party since 2010. She is Scotland's first female Prime Minister, and the youngest.
Beginning her career as a model, King founded her own cosmetics brand PerfectionAttained in 1997. Based on its success she was able to build up her own cosmetics, clothing and media empire, and by 2008 was the richest woman in Scotland.
A prominent figure in the media with a strong business record, in 2010 she announced her intention to seek the leadership of the Reform Party, despite not being an MP. She was elected unopposed.
The Reform led centre-right coalition swept into power in 2011, collectively winning an overall majority. During her first term King focused on recovering from the recession of 2008-12 by moderate reductions in public spending, and the privatisation and semi-privatisation of state owned bodies.
She led the Reform Party to an historic re-election victory in 2015, winning 76 seats and overtaking Labour as the largest party in parliament.
Karen Olivia Newman was born on June 6, 1971 in a working class area of Glasgow. Her father Layton (born 1940) was a local builder, and her mother Angela (born 1952) a hairdresser. She attended St Francis High School until 1988 when she left home to pursue a career in modelling in Edinburgh.
She initially met little success as a model, and was forced to share a two room flat with six other girls. She got a temporary job working at a local fish and chip shop. She appeared in several minor magazines, and featured in a series of commercials by Finlans department stores. It was in August 1990 her big break came, appearing as a swimsuit model in HIT! magazine. In 1990-91 she appeared in a string of magazines, but then her modelling career faded as quickly as it began.
In February 1994 she founded PerfectionAttained, a high class cosmetics company designed specifically to cater for women in acting and modelling. The company proved a near instant success, and within two years the PA brand was being used by several major department stores, not only in Scotland but accross Europe. PA later branched out, opening a series of spa's, cosmetic treatment centres and cosmetic surgery centres.
Based upon the success of PA, in 1997 King also bought a 20% stake in the department store chain Walsh's. By 2003 King owned a majority stake in the business.
In 2007 King bought The Nationalist newspaper, rebranding it from a broadsheet into a tabloid. The newspapers readership increased significantly. In 2010 King sold the paper for an estimated £20 million, treble the price she initially paid for it.
Beginning in 2006 King served as the star of the TV series The Apprentice.
King began her life as a Labour voter, it was only in 1995 that she switched her alliegance to the Reform Party. Although she was courted as a potential Labour donor by Alex Wishart as late as 2004, from 2006 onwards she was an active supporter of the Reform Party. She featured prominently in the party's 2007 general election campaign, and was encouraged by many senior Reform politicians. Ultimately she decided against standing, but agreed to serve as David Joyce's "business ambassador" should he be elected Prime Minister.
Following the party's defeat at the 2007 election King was frequently mentioned as a potential future Reform leader. When asked in a 2008 interview if it was time for a woman Prime Minister, she replied "oh absolutely, and I think there may just be one soon". With Reform performing relatively poorly in the opinion polls in 2009-10, despite the financial crisis, pressure grew upon David Joyce to resign as leader. In August 2010 one opinion poll put Reform third, behind Labour and the Conservative Party, and predicted Reform would only win 34 seats if an election were held. Media pressure grew on Joyce to resign, and he did the following week.
King announced the following day that she would seek the leadership of the Reform Party. Initially it was unclear whether she could seek the leadership, all previous leaders of political parties with representation in parliament had themselves been members of parliament. The Reform Party President, James Caroll, clarified the situation a few days later, by stating that any Reform Party member could seek the leadership of the party, providing they had the support of at least 10% of the parliamentary Reform party, 4 MPs. King easily obtained the support of the required number of MPs.
No other candidates presented themselves, and on September 9th 2010 King was unanimously elected Leader of the Reform Party. Many expected an incumbent Reform MP to stand down, forcing a by-election and giving King the chance to enter parliament. However only two days after her election she announced her intention not to ask a "hard working, loyal MP" to stand down in her favour, and insisted she would remain Leader outside parliament until the next election, due in May 2011. In the meantime Michael Tennant, the Deputy Leader of the party would also serve as the party's parliamentary leader.
Prior to taking office King announced she would not take her salary as Prime Minister, instead donating it to the treasury.
First term 2011-2015
Finance Minister Nick Singleton presented the government's first budget on July 3rd 2011. The budget provided for significant spending cuts, large pay cuts for MPs, civil servants and Ministers, and the sale of a large amount of government owned land and buildings.
In March 2012 the government announced controversial cuts to the Scottish Defence Forces, seeing the closing of several military bases, cutting the number of SDF personnel by 1/3, and decomissioning the navy's flagship SNS Banffshire.
Second term 2015-
The 2015 general election saw the government returned to office, with the Reform Party increasing its number of seats to 76, overtaking the Labour Party and becoming the largest party in Parliament for the first time in the party's history.
King married her first husband, Michael Davis (born 1965) in 1993. The couple had a child, Maria (born 1994) before divorcing in 1996.
In 2006 King married her second husband, Stephane Abreuve, a French property magnate. The couple have no children.