Teresa Gorman: Maverick MP best-known as one of the rebels who fought Prime Minister John Major over Europe

Was a prominent figure in the ructions over Europe that nearly brought down John Major's government

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The Independent Online

Teresa Gorman was proud to be a “Bastard”. The former Tory MP, who has died at the age of 83, was a leading rebel over the Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s, a prominent figure in the ructions over Europe that nearly brought down John Major’s government.

She was the highest-profile figure of an otherwise largely anonymous band of MPs whose Eurosceptic plottings led Major to label them “The Bastards”. The Conservative whip was withdrawn from them after they refused to back the EC Finance Bill in 1994.

In 2004 they gathered at a lunch hosted by the Freedom Association, the right-wing campaign group, to raise a glass to their moment in the spotlight 10 years before – Gorman, Chris Gill, Tony Marlow, Sir Teddy Taylor, John Wilkinson, Sir Richard Body and Richard Shepherd. Another of their number, Nick Budgen, had died in 1998. “It was the greatest honour of my whole life to be labelled a bastard,” said Gorman – who wrote a book called The Bastards: dirty tricks and the challenge to Europe.

The term “the bastards” was coined when Major was caught off guard in July 1993, following an interview with Michael Brunson of ITN. Thinking the sound had been switched off, he said: “We don’t want another three more of the bastards out there.” He was believed to be referring to Michael Howard, Peter Lilley and Michael Portillo – three of the more prominent Eurosceptics – but the phrase stuck for all those in his own party who had signed up for the awkward squad.

Teresa Ellen Moore was not from the more privileged end of the Conservative Party; her father was a demolition contractor, her mother a waitress. She went to Fulham County School in London then trained as a teacher, graduating from London University. She worked on an exchange programme in New York, which, she said “changed my life. It was the first time I’d lived in a capitalist society, it was like coming out from behind the Iron Curtain.”

She ran a business selling teaching aids and worked in property development with her first husband, Jim Gorman. She ran for Parliament as an anti-Heath Independent in the Conservative-held seat of Streatham in the October 1974 election, but polled only 210 votes. That year she founded the Alliance of Small Firms & Self-Employed People, and was elected to Westminster City Council in  1982, remaining until 1986. There were many more attempts to get into Parliament, before she finally succeeded in Billericay in 1987 – after shaving 10 years off her age when she faced the selection committee.

In 1992, Gorman introduced an amendment to the Representation of the People Act under the Ten Minute Rule to give two seats to each constituency, one for a male MP and one for a female, but the amendment received only a first reading. Soon, she found herself at loggerheads with the Party over Europe.

At the 1997 general election there was a massive swing towards her opponent, but she scraped by with a much-reduced majority of 1,356. She tried to stand for the Conservative London mayoral candidacy in 2000, but was blocked by her own party.

In February 2000 she was suspended from the Commons for a month for failing to disclose three rented properties in south London on the Register of Members Interests between 1987 and 1994 and for failing to register two rented-out Portuguese properties from 1987-99. The Commons’ Standards and Privileges committee also said she should not have introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in 1990 proposing the repeal of the Rent Acts without registering and declaring a financial interest.

Gorman was considered an able politician but something of a loose cannon. She disliked, she said, what she termed “middle-class idiots”, chauvinists, the European Union, wet Tories and those in the Conservative Party who thought they were born to rule. She also believed that rapists should be castrated.

In the battle for the Tory leadership in 1997, after Major had resigned in the wake of defeat in the general election, Gorman deserted right-winger John Redwood because she believed that he was “a bad-mannered, insensitive snob whose remarks on single mothers were a disaster”. She voted instead for Kenneth Clarke, who was in favour of stronger ties with the EU, as opposed to the Eurosceptic William Hague.

She left the Commons in 2001, joining the speaking circuit and becoming for a while a regular on television programmes like Have I Got News for You and The Mrs Merton Show. She also promoted hormone replacement therapy, saying that she wanted to be known as “St Teresa of the menopause”.

In recent years she had shifted her allegiance to Ukip, and voted for the party at the general election in May. The veteran Tory MP Bill Cash described her as a “real trooper” and “tremendously loyal” to her cause. “She understood what was going on with that Maastricht treaty, and she was completely determined to play a full role as a patriotic back-bencher, and nothing would deter her,” he said. “I don’t think the whips had the slightest chance with her, if I may say so, and the truth is that she was a wonderful fighter.”

CHRIS MAUME 

Teresa Ellen Moore, politician: born 20 September 1931; Member, Westminster City Council 1982–86; MP for Billericay 1987–2001; married firstly Jim Gorman (died 2007), 2010 Peter Clarke; died 28 August 2015.

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