Diaries Volume II: 1992-1997, By Edwina Currie
The power and the vainglorious
Sunday 07 October 2012
She does plaintive ("No one else has ever come along offering me a home") and crowing ("I look stunning in Balenciaga and Ungaro!") but never does Edwina Currie travel by way of subtle. Whereas its predecessor delivered the hot news of her affair with John Major, the second volume of her diaries suffers for not having all that much new to say – so, like a party outfit worn by Katie Price, it tries rather too hard to please.
Sex permeates the book. Or rather, Currie's unique sexual powers, over anyone from professors to prime ministers, are a recurring theme. Indeed, if only a supercharged Major had continued his dalliance with Currie, he might well have been able to swat away those pesky Eurosceptic "bastards", out-man the dastardly French, and crush the upstart Blair with a single blow. Oh John!
Alas, he stayed with Norma, and Currie is left with a sense of longing – but mostly grievance, laced with snobbery. Long before the Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, did or didn't call those Downing Street coppers "plebs", Currie was writing that her former lover's "domestic policies are still mired at the level of a poor boy from a home in straitened circumstances in Brixton".
But then she's pretty rude about everyone. Libby Purves is "very fat" and Patrick Moore "a lump of collapsing foam rubber". Paddy Ashdown is "not very bright" and Norman Lamont has "a small wet mobile mouth like a predatory but lazy fish". Actually, I quite enjoyed that last one. I was more shocked by the fact that she ever saw herself as a potential Tory leader – but apparently she did.
Currie presents herself as a supporter of other women, although the evidence for this is pretty thin. She rails against Gillian Shepherd's promotion to the Cabinet, and describes the first female Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, as "useless". She is clearly a clever, observant and in some ways admirable woman, in that she never, ever gives up. It would be good to like her and her diaries. But without much in the way of wit or human sympathy, what comes over from these heavily edited 300 pages is that her world of politics is just as vain, venal and disagreeable as we have long suspected.
Sonia Purnell is the author of Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition (Aurum, £8.99)
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