Unrepentant Norris romps and tells

The ex-minister delivers his embarrassing goods on the eve of the Tory conference. By John Rentoul

For months senior Tories have been shifting awkwardly at the thought of the "romp `n' tell" memoirs of Steven Norris hitting the bookshops next week, days before their party conference.

It seems that, as so often in his life, the former transport minister had the best of intentions. The first draft of his book was so tame the publishers, who paid more than pounds 150,000, asked him to "spice it up".

Now the publishers - and the Daily Mail, which began serialisation yesterday - have got what they want.

But no one else is happy. More than one mistress feels bitter and betrayed by his decision to go into print about his relationships. Today the Mail launches its main salvo: "The truth about me and my five mistresses".

His party is also angry about his disloyalty. A minister in the Government until only two months ago, Mr Norris launched a vitriolic attack on Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, in yesterday's instalment.

He accused Mr Heseltine of failing to reward his supporters, and said: "The real reason Emma Nicholson defected was that, after years of dogged devotion, Heseltine could hardly remember her name."

But the real story that is revealed is one of a boisterous Thatcherite brought down to earth by the reality of less exciting times. Mr Norris was the embodiment of the Thatcher boom years. A Labour student who was a Tory convert, he became a millionaire through his ownership of a VW- Audi dealership and described himself, ironically, as a "second-hand car dealer".

He was married to the daughter of a rear-admiral and sent his son to Eton. He was irreverent, larger than life and a populist right-winger.

When he was translated from Oxford to Epping Forest after a year out of the Commons, he became the emblematic Essex Man.

But he was never really like that. He was a social liberal who supported reducing the age of consent for homosexuals to 16. And he was a Thatcherite who lost faith in Baroness Thatcher over the poll tax.

In yesterday's instalment, he claimed to have admired her and her "brilliant" Euro-sceptical Bruges speech, but said she lost touch with the Tory party and the people through no fault of her own.

This was not what he said at the time, which was that "the only way to be sure was to nail her in a coffin with a stake through her heart".

And then there was the sex. The evasions of politics seem to have been replicated in his private life.

Asked by Lady Thatcher's campaign manager, Peter Morrison, "I trust we can count on you?", Mr Norris says he replied: "Absolutely no problem." He describes this as a "suitably Delphic response", which added to the Thatcher team's miscalculation.

He was still at it earlier this summer, when at a meeting two rail enthusiasts gave him a video of their plans to improve public transport in their area. He listened attentively and promised to watch it, but they watched in horror and fury as he walked out of the meeting and put it in a dustbin.

In his not-so-private life, one of his mistresses yesterday said that he had broken an understanding that neither of them would say anything in public about their relationship.

This is a direct reversal of Mr Norris's accusation against another former minister, Edwina Currie, whom he accused of having betrayed him, with her revelation to the Today newspaper: "Minister tried to seduce me."

This actually referred to an incident when they were both at school in Liverpool. He said: "She may, I suppose, have imagined a brief fumble under her blouse behind the school hall to be an orgasmic experience, but I fear I was less impressed."

And he said that, when they met in the Members' Lobby on both being elected to the Commons in 1983, she had said: "I won't say anything if you don't." But he accused her of breaking her word by going public at precisely the time in 1993 when the tabloids published revelations about his overlapping mistresses.

At the weekend, his ex-lover Lynn Taylor launched her pre-emptive strike in the Mail's sister paper, the Mail on Sunday. "He was reading from the script of married men. His wife, Vicky, didn't understand him, they led separate lives, blah, blah. I knew his wife had just had a baby so I didn't believe a word of it," she said.

But Mr Norris sent her flowers and presents. "He was very romantic, and so, so charming. He made me laugh - he is a very funny man and in this part of the world [Wiltshire] there are not many decent, intelligent and amusing men. There I was - 39 and divorced. I thought, `Terrific, life does begin at 40'."

In stark contrast to his version of the story, in which she is portrayed as a lonely woman who pestered him to marry her, she said he promised to marry her. "Steve went down on one knee to propose and gave me a ring, the whole bit."

Others have preferred a dignified silence in response to Mr Norris's first literary effort. Mrs Currie had no comment yesterday and Mr Heseltine's office did not return our call.

For those hoping the book would provide salacious insights into recent political events, as the much-hyped comparison with Alan Clark's diaries suggested, yesterday's instalment was a disappointment.

Mr Norris recycled a Spitting Image sketch as a true story, recounting the time when Lady Thatcher was "dining with her Cabinet colleagues and being asked what dish she had chosen. `I'll have the steak,' she promptly dictated. `And what about the vegetables?' `Oh, they'll have steak too.'"

But he warned John Major: "As long as there is breath in Michael Heseltine's body, he would lead the party if the opportunity arose."

In his own words - the life and times of Steven Norris - in

"The reputation I have as a philanderer is quite erroneous. I am not angry about it but it's a million miles from the reality." This week.

On the morning of 1995 Tory leadership election he predicted that John Major would have to resign if 100 MPs failed to vote for him. 111 failed to do so, but Mr Major stayed

Asked who he voted for in 1995 Tory leadership election: "John Major. I owed him and he's the least worst option."

On the joys of the car: "You have your own company, your own temperature control, your own music - and don't have to put up with dreadful human beings sitting alongside you." 1995

"For the sake of the environment, we must try to tone down this love affair with the car." 1994

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there