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Jennifer Watson CBE (born 25 January 1964),[1] better known as Jenny Watson, is the former chairperson of the United Kingdom Electoral Commission. A long term campaigner for women's rights, she had a 20+ year career in the not for profit sector. She started out at Liberty,[2] and then political campaigners Charter88, before moving to Victim Support. She is a former Chair of the Fawcett Society, a not-for-profit organisation campaigning for equality between women and men.[2]

Watson was the last chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission before the creation of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights,[2] having been first appointed as a commissioner in 1999, and deputy chair from 2000. She was deputy chairman of the Banking Code Standards Board, and of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.[2]

Watson is a director of Global Partners and Associates. She is a member of the Advertising Standards Authority's advertising advisory committee, and sits on the Council of the Women's Library at London Metropolitan University. She currently sits on the board of the Audit Commission, but her tenure will not be renewed.[3] She is a trustee of the Charities Aid Foundation,[4] a non-executive director of the Waste & Resources Action Programme, and a trustee of the Money Advice Trust.[4]

Watson was appointed the second chair of the Electoral Commission in January 2009.[2] She is paid £100,000 for a role which requires her to work three days a week.[5] Watson remained chair of the electoral commission amidst criticism of her management of the 2010 United Kingdom general election, when she defended herself on the grounds that the Electoral Commission had few powers over returning officers. Since then, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 has increased the Commission's authority with regard to referendums. She formally announced the results of the Welsh devolution referendum "in both English and Welsh with perfect pronunciation". Just two months later, she acted as Chief Counting Officer (CCO) in the 2011 AV Referendum and also acted in the same capacity in the 2016 EU Referendum. In doing so, she became the first person to oversee two UK-wide referendums as Chief Counting Officer.[6]

Watson was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to electoral democracy.[7]


  • Human Rights in Britain since the Human Rights Act 1998: A Critical Review co-authored with Alice Donald (Global Partners & Associates) and the Human Rights & Social Justice Research Unit of London Metropolitan University.[8]


  1. ^ "Weekend birthdays". The Guardian. London: Guardian News & Media: 51. 25 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "The Commissioners". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  3. ^ Chapman, James (8 September 2010). "Eric Pickles fires the left-wing quango queen blamed for election night shambles". Daily Mail. London.
  4. ^ a b "Jenny Watson". CAF. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  5. ^ Gallagher, Ian (9 May 2010). "How £100k 'Modern Militant' presided over voting shambles". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  6. ^ Curtis, Polly (5 May 2011). "All eyes on electoral commission chief as AV referendum results loom". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  7. ^ "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B10.
  8. ^ "Human Rights & Social Justice Research Unit". London Metropolitan University. Retrieved 9 May 2010.

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Government offices
Preceded by
Julie Mellor
Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Preceded by
Sam Younger
Chair of the Electoral Commission