The Tories in Bournemouth: Lamont rides the Underground in recovery position: Ex-Chancellor at heart of latest Euro-split laughs off claims he is a bitter hermit

RECENTLY, Norman Lamont was annoyed to see a woman intruder uprooting flowers from the front garden of his home in Notting Hill Gate, west London. When he remonstrated through the window, she quick-wittedly snarled back: 'I'm just pulling up your green shoots.'

This remains, however, an exceptional experience in the 16 months since the burdens of office were abruptly lifted from him. After 14 years of being driven everywhere by ministerial car, Mr Lamont - who usually travels to the City by Tube - has found members of the public curiously friendly now he is no longer directly responsible for the government's economic policy.

He even told a friend the other day that a down-and- out, brandishing a half- empty bottle, had shouted across to him: 'It's all going right now, Mr Lamont, but someone else is taking the credit.'

There are, in other words, compensations for no longer being Chancellor, much as he still entertains hopes of one day assuming office again. And they go further than having the freedom to appall his former colleagues by thinking the 'unthinkable' on Europe, as he did on Tuesday.

For one thing, he is busy making a lot more money than he ever did as a Cabinet minister, probably well in excess of pounds 100,000 a year. He is a non-executive director not only of N M Rothschild, where he has an office which he visits most days, but also of the investment fund managers Jupiter Tyndall, where is chairman of its Taiwan investment arm. He is off to Taiwan and the Philippines next week.

At the same time he can command large sums on the international business seminar circuit; in the last few weeks he has flown to Bahrain to address a conference of bankers; he was a key speaker at a London conference of 600 Italian bankers en route for the International Monetary Fund conference in Madrid; and he was an equally prominent contributor to a recent conference on privatisation in Canada. He even tried out of most of Tuesday's speech to a meeting of Yorkshire businessmen.

He sees more of his son and daughter, and while his wife, Rosemary, might prefer a slightly quieter life, she throughly agrees with his views.

According to friends, he is enjoying himself and is baffled by his depiction by opponents as an embittered hermit. He talks frequently to young Euro-sceptic MPs like Alan Duncan and Ian Duncan Smith; but he also socialises regularly with Michael Howard and Peter Lilley, and sometimes with Jonathan Aitken and Michael Portillo - though asssociates insist he did not discuss the speech with them.

Mr Lamont's big problem, of course, is how to stay in politics, given that his Kingston constituency is virtually certain to disappear under boundary reorganisation. He has consistently denied that his frequent trips to Yorkshire, where his wife's family live, have anything to do with the creation of the new and safe - insofar as any Tory seat is safe now - seat of Vale of York, and adds he has not yet focused on the issue of finding a suitable constituency. He has also let it be known that, contrary to rumour, he is not thinking of joining the Ulster Unionists.

Whether Tuesday's speech, raising the stakes so dramatically on Europe, helps or hinders him in finding his seat will say a good deal about the current state of the Tory party.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...