“From humble bra-designer to global entrepreneur,” Baroness Michelle Mone “is a shining example of how flair and true grit can lead to global success”. That is, according to the the glossy website belonging to Baroness Mone herself. But has the lingerie-tycoon turned Tory peer taken liberties with that so-called success? 

Mone, 51, nicknamed “Baroness Bra” – who is under investigation by House of Lords commissioners for standards over her “alleged involvement” in procuring taxpayer-funded contracts for the company PPE Medpro – announced today that she is taking a leave of absence from the Lords. 

Incidentally, she is taking leave on the very day that Labour is attempting to force the government to publish all documents relating to £203m worth of PPE contracts awarded to PPE Medpro during the pandemic. 

The move is no admission of guilt. According to her spokesperson, the Glasgow-born businesswoman is intent on clearing her name of “the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her.” 

Yet her denials appear to have become increasingly untenable. 

PPE Medpro secured contracts to supply masks and medical gowns in 2020, weeks after Mone recommended the company to the Tory Cabinet minister, Michael Gove, and his then deputy Lord Agnew. Mone told them that PPE could be procured via “my team in Hong Kong”, and Cabinet Office officials added PPE Medpro to the VIP lane.

Mone failed to declare any financial interest in the firm. Yet, according to HSBC documents obtained in a Guardian investigation, her husband, the Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, was paid at least £65m in profits from PPE Medpro, £29m of which was later transferred into an offshore trust of which Mone and her adult children were the beneficiaries.

According to the investigation, the timing was auspicious. The huge fortune amassed on the back of PPE Medpro profits landed just weeks before the couple’s lavish wedding in the Isle of Man and honeymoon in the Maldives.

When asked why Mone did not include PPE Medpro in her House of Lords register of financial interests, her lawyer replied: “Baroness Mone did not declare any interest as she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity.”

The Conservative peer’s lobbying efforts don’t appear to have endeared her to many within government. Last night, it was revealed that rising TV star Matt Hancock has vented in his upcoming book, The Pandemic Diaries, about Mone’s “extraordinarily aggressive” lobbying efforts, even claiming that she sent him a “threatening message” in a separate bid to supply Covid tests during the pandemic. 

And, according to the Times, at one point, an exasperated Gove is said to have described her as “a right pain in the arse”.   

Pain in the arse or not, her “aggressive” tactics largely paid off. Documents leaked to The Times reveal that the Department of Health agreed to purchase face masks supplied by PPE Medpro for over twice what it paid for identical masks made by the same company, but provided by other suppliers.

True grit indeed. No wonder then-PM David Cameron awarded Mone the role of Start-Up Business Tsar in 2015.