What do the following have in common? Dennis Thatcher, Norman Tebbitt, Anne Widdecombe, David Steele, Lord McKay of Clashfern, Alistair Campbell, Frederich Hayek, Bernard Jenkins, Ian Sproat, Michael Forsythe, Michael Joplin, George Mambiot. I could go on. The unfortunate answer is that they are all people Teresa Gorman mentions in her book and spells incorrectly. This might not be so bad if it were not for the fact that she asserts that Jonathan Dimbleby (spelled correctly) was the presenter of Any Questions in the 1970s. He wasn’t, David Jacobs was. She reckons John Major was Chancellor in 1987. He wasn’t – he was Chief Secretary. She believes John Patten was Home Secretary in 1990. He wasn’t. David Waddington was. L’Amico was a restaurant in Horseferry Road- not L’Amigos, as Teresa would have us believe.
Leaving these irritations aside, this book is quite a jolly romp – romp being the operative word. Take this gem, for example: “His presence registered up and down my spine. My body, from the waist down, turned to jelly. I could have stood there all day. I didn’t dare turn round to face him or I might have been in his arms.” Cecil Parkinson obviously had a lucky escape.
Gorman relishes the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the repressed sexual energies involved in House of Commons life. She tells a jolly tale of sitting on the Commons benches and being poked in the back of the head by an Honourable Member (I use the term advisedly) but doesn’t name the poor chap. I happen to know his identity, but I guess I had better keep it to myself. Suffice to say he is a prominent (in more ways than one) member of the Shadow Cabinet.
Incorrigible is a word which could be used to describe Teresa Gorman. Misunderstood is another. Her giggly personality and tough, right wing outlook have pigeon-holed her as a maverick. But those who know her will testify that she’s a pussycat who just wants to be loved.
She grew up in a poor, unloving South London household but due to her own efforts, she made good. Her business was a success and she soon took up the cudgels of the small business lobby. Her parliamentary career will always be marked by her principled euroscepticsm and advocacy of HRT, yet her promotion of womens’ rights in general remains a little obscured by her outspoken promotion of more eccentric causes.
The chapter on her period in America and her unlikely friendship with Jackie Kennedy is a highlight of the book. The strange thing is that in the photos from this period (mid 1960s) she looks older than she does today. In order to get selected for Billericay in 1987 she took 10 years off her age. I have calculated that she is now 70, going on 43. She is still a bundle of energy, and in her new incarnation as Head of the Freedom Association, she is doubtlessly going to raise its profile.
This is a curious book. Parts of it made me laugh out loud, yet I would find it hard to describe it as an autobiography. It is more a collection of anecdotes and reminiscences, but not necessarily the worse for it. The book proves what a character Gorman is and how Parliament is the worse for her departure, as it suffers the colourless androids that now tend to inhabit its benches. We’ll miss her, if not her spelling.
Iain Dale is Managing Director of Politico’s.