Gorman is late entrant for Tory mayoral race

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The Independent Online
TERESA GORMAN, the Eurosceptic MP, was a surprise late entry yesterday in the re-run race to become the Tory candidate for mayor of London.

In an attempt to learn the lessons from the Jeffrey Archer affair, London Tory leaders are expected to vet the candidates seeking the party's nomination for any "skeletons in the cupboard". The move could result in Steven Norris, the front-runner, being questioned by a specially convened sub-committee of the London Tories about his colourful private life and his five former mistresses.

Senior Tories admit privately that they were wrong not to carry out tougher checks on Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, who was forced to stand down last month after a friend alleged he was asked to lie for the novelist in a libel trial in 1987.

Ms Gorman, the MP for Billericay, is expected to face questions about an inquiry being conducted by Elizabeth Filkin, the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards and Privileges, into a complaint that she failed to declare in the MPs' register of interests her ownership of two homes in South London and another in Portugal.

Her last-minute entry stunned Tory leaders. She only requested nomination papers on Saturday, and put her name forward just before yesterday's noon deadline. Mrs Gorman, 68, announced a week ago that she would stand down from Parliament at the next general election. Although she said she wanted to seek fresh challenges outside the Commons, she also cited her desire to look after her sick husband.

Last night the maverick MP said she had thrown her hat into the ring to combat Mr Norris' liberal views on homosexuality. She declared that London mothers did not want their children handed pamphlets on "alternative lifestyles".

Billing herself as the candidate for the "cabbies on the street and the ordinary Londoner", Mrs Gorman said: "I believe that a woman's voice from an old-fashioned school would not go amiss, coupled with the fact that I have had a close involvement with the London scene all my life." Mrs Gorman, a former member of Westminster City Council, was one of the seven Tory Eurosceptic rebels from whom John Major briefly withdrew the party whip.

Senior Conservatives said there are four heavyweight candidates on the list, which will be published later this week. They are Mrs Gorman, Mr Norris, Baroness Miller of Hendon, the party's London spokesman in the House of Lords, and Baroness Hanham, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Other Tory hopefuls include John Wilkinson, the MP for Ruislip Northwood; councillors Andrew Boff and Robert Blackman; the former Lambeth Tory group leader Bernard Gentry; Jamaican-born Lurline Champagnie and Mark Kotecha, 35, an Internet entrepreneur.

After the new vetting procedure has been carried out, the 72 local Tory party chairmen in London will whittle down the applicants to a shortlist of three or four runners.

They will appear at a hustings meeting on 15 December, before two names are chosen for a final secret ballot of the Tories' 30,000 members in the capital. The result will be announced on 17 January.

Mr Norris's campaign was helped yesterday when Ivan Massow, the millionaire businessman, pulled out of the race and endorsed him.

Mr Hague and his shadow cabinet will remain neutral until the party has selected its candidate.

CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES

Steven Norris - former Transport minister

Teresa Gorman (right) - veteran Eurosceptic MP for Billericay

Baroness Miller of Hendon - Tory London spokesman in the House of Lords

Baroness Hanham - leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council

John Wilkinson - MP for Ruislip Northwood

Andrew Boff - Islington councillor

Robert Blackman - Brent councillor

Bernard Gentry - former Lambeth Tory group leader

Lurline Champagnie - Jamaican-born former Tory Harrow councillor

Mark Kotecha (right) - millionaire Internet entrepreneur

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