Having announced her intention to stand down as an MP just a week ago, the veteran Conservative had bounced back only to have her bid rejected a few hours later. The reason for the decision was unclear though the selectors knew Mrs Gorman was under investigation by the MPs' disciplinary committee following revelations in The Independent about her property interests. After Lord Archer's forced withdrawal over a false alibi, the Tory party is bound to be concerned about its candidates' probity.
The Billericay MP's ejection from the mayoral race marked the latest dramatic twist in what has been, even for a former "whipless wonder," a turbulent six months. She announced her intention to stand down just two days before a planned meeting with the Standards and Privileges Committee, saying she would seek new challenges and spend more time with her husband, who was unwell. Within days she had burst back as a potential London mayor, but that new challenge was to evaporate as swiftly as it had arisen. A few hours after announcing her intention to stand, a phone call informed the MP that she was not even on a list of those going forward for interview.
She professed herself "baffled" yesterday over the party's action and Central Office remained silent over its reasons, but various explanations were mooted. Some commentators suggested that perhaps Mrs Gorman was too old at 68. Others said maybe the fact her former opposition to plans for a London mayor had disqualified her, or maybe she was just too much of an individualist - the Tories' very own Ken Livingstone. There was also the possibility that some technical slip-up in her nomination papers had barred her.
However, sensitivity over the veteran Eurosceptic's recent scrapes with the Parliamentary watchdog could also have played on the minds of the Mayoral Selection Executive. In May, Mrs Gorman was forced to apologise to the House of Commons after the committee criticised her for failing to register directorships of two companies. One was a business selling scientific teaching aids, set up by Mrs Gorman before she became an MP in 1987. The other was a personal company which received fees from the first company, from books and from media work.
That inquiry also found the MP should have registered a property in Norwood, South London, used by the her business. Further investigations by The Independent revealed that the property was used not just for business but also for residential lettings, and that Mrs Gorman had also owned a bedsit block next door as well as one nearby in Streatham. In January 1990, when paying tenants were living in at least one of the properties, Mrs Gorman tried to bring in a Bill to repeal the rent acts without mentioning her interest.
Mrs Gorman's solicitor said she did not know who owned two offshore companies which bought the houses in 1994. It is understood she has now admitted having links to the companies, which have sold the houses recently.
Conservative Central Office stressed that decisions over who should be shortlisted or interviewed for the mayoral candidacy were entirely a matter for the party's London branch.Reuse content