Edwina Currie

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Edwina Currie
Edwina currie nightingale house cropped.jpg
Currie in 2009
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health
In office
18 September 1986 – 20 December 1988
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Member of Parliament
for South Derbyshire
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Mark Todd
Personal details
Born (1946-10-13) 13 October 1946 (age 67)
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Ray Currie (div. 1997)
John Jones (m. 2001)
Children 2
Residence Chinley, Derbyshire
Alma mater St. Anne's College, Oxford
Religion Judaism

Edwina Jones (born 13 October 1946), born Edwina Cohen and commonly known by her first married name, Edwina Currie, is a former British Member of Parliament. First elected as a Conservative Party MP in 1983, she was a Junior Health Minister for two years, before resigning in 1988 over the controversy over salmonella in eggs.

By the time Currie lost her seat as an MP in 1997, she had begun a new career as a novelist and broadcaster. She is the author of six novels and has also written four works of non-fiction. In 2002, publication of Currie's Diaries (1987–92) caused a sensation, as they revealed a four-year affair with John Major between 1984 and 1988.

Early life[edit]

Currie was born in south Liverpool, Lancashire, England, to an Orthodox Jewish family and has identified herself as Jewish, although she has stated: "I find religious mumbo jumbo hard to swallow in any faith."[1] She went to the Liverpool Institute High School for Girls in Blackburne House, in the Canning area of Liverpool, where she was Head Girl

She studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Anne's College, Oxford where she was taught by Gabriele Taylor; subsequently, she gained a MA in economic history from the London School of Economics.

Member of Parliament[edit]

From 1975 until 1986, she was a Birmingham City Councillor for Northfield. In 1983, she stood for parliament as a Conservative Party candidate, and was elected as the member for South Derbyshire. Frequently outspoken, she was described as "a virtually permanent fixture on the nation's TV screen saying something outrageous about just about anything" and "the most outspoken and sexually interested woman of her political generation."[2]

In September 1986, she became a Junior Health Minister. Among her comments over the next two years were—despite her not being religious—that "good Christian people" don't get AIDS,[3] that old people who couldn't afford their heating bills should wrap up warm in winter and that northerners die of "ignorance and chips".[4]

Salmonella in eggs controversy[edit]

Currie was forced to resign in December 1988 after she issued a warning about salmonella in British eggs. The statement that "most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella"[5] sparked outrage among farmers and egg producers, and caused egg sales in the country to rapidly decline by 60 percent. The loss of revenue meant four million hens were slaughtered.[6][7] Although the statement was widely interpreted as referring to "most eggs produced", in fact it related to the egg production flock; there was indeed evidence that a mid-1980s regulation change had allowed salmonella to get a hold in flocks.[8] However, Currie failed to clarify this distinction.

There was particular anger in Northern Ireland where egg production is a significant part of the economy. At the Christmas party of the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland that year the featured dish was curried eggs. To make amends, in 1990, she began the National Egg Awareness Campaign. The controversy gained her the nickname 'Eggwina'.

Long after the furore died down, in 2001, it was revealed that a covered up Whitehall report produced months after Currie's resignation found that there had been a "salmonella epidemic of considerable proportions".[9]

Post-ministerial career as an MP[edit]

In 1991, Currie became the first Conservative MP to appear on the BBC topical panel show Have I Got News For You. She appeared again two years later, in a special episode commemorating the release of Margaret Thatcher's memoirs, opposite fellow Liverpudlian (and Liverpool Institute alumnus) Derek Hatton.

During the 1992 General Election campaign, Currie poured a glass of orange juice over Labour's Peter Snape shortly after an edition of the Midlands based television debate show Central Weekend had finished airing.[10] Speaking about the incident later, Currie said "I just looked at my orange juice, and looked at this man from which this stream of abuse was emanating, and thought 'I know how to shut you up.'[10]

After the 1992 General Election, she declined a request from prime minister John Major to take up a position as Minister of State for the Home Office.[11]

In February 1994, she tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill to lower the age of consent for homosexual sexual acts to 16. This amendment was defeated by 307 votes to 280, although a subsequent amendment resulted in the reduction of the homosexual age of consent from 21 to 18; final equalisation was achieved in 2000. In 1994, Currie voted against the death penalty for murder, having previously voted in favour of it in 1983.

In June 1994, she contested the European Parliament seat of Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, but lost the seat to Labour's Eryl McNally by 94,837 votes to 61,628 votes.

After 14 years as an MP at Westminster, Currie lost her parliamentary seat of South Derbyshire in the 1997 General Election.

Other works[edit]

Author[edit]

Currie is the author of six novels: A Parliamentary Affair (1994), A Woman's Place (1996) She's Leaving Home (1997), The Ambassador (1999), Chasing Men (2000) and This Honourable House (2001). She has also written four works of non-fiction: Life Lines (1989), What Women Want (1990), Three Line Quips (1992) and Diaries 1987–92 (2002). She remains an outspoken public figure, with a reputation for being "highly opinionated",[6] and currently earns her living as an author and media personality.

Media[edit]

From the time she lost her seat in 1997, Currie has maintained a presence in the media. For five years (1998–2003), she hosted a late-evening talk show on BBC Radio Five Live, Late Night Currie.[12] In 2002 she moved to HTV, presenting the television programme Currie Night until 2003. Since then, she has appeared in a string of reality television programmes, such as Wife Swap in which she and her second husband John swapped places with John McCririck and his wife, Jenny. She has also appeared in the reality cooking show Hell's Kitchen with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, and Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes, both in 2006.[13]

Currie was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!. She won Celebrity Mastermind on 23 June 2004, specialising in the life of Marie Curie. She also won All Star Family Fortunes on 3 January 2009. She appeared in Channel 4's Come Dine With Me in February 2009 where she finished third. She made a second appearance on the show during Channel 4's "Alternative Election Night" coverage, with Rod Liddle, Brian Paddick and Derek Hatton as her competitors. She also appeared in James May's Show James May's Toy Stories where she helped him build a bridge made entirely out of Meccano in Liverpool.

Strictly Come Dancing[edit]

On 6 September 2011 it was announced that Currie would take part in the 2011 series of Strictly Come Dancing.[14] On 10 September 2011 it was announced she would be dancing with Vincent Simone. She was the first dancer to be eliminated from the competition on 9 October 2011.

Personal life[edit]

In 1972, Edwina Cohen married accountant Ray Currie in Barnstaple, Devon; they had two children and divorced in 1997. During this marriage Edwina Currie had the four-year affair with John Major, later Prime Minister, which she revealed in 2002.

On 24 May 2001, in Southwark, she married retired detective John Jones whom she had met when he was a guest on her radio programme in 1999.[15] Currie currently lives in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire.[citation needed]

Affair with John Major[edit]

Currie's Diaries (1987–92), published in 2002, caused a sensation, as they revealed a four-year affair with John Major between 1984 and 1988 while both were married to other people. The affair started while she was a backbencher and Major was the government whip in Margaret Thatcher's government. After Major's promotion to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the relationship ended, but the two remained friends. Currie apparently ceased the affair when it became dangerous and impractical owing to the presence of bodyguards who had to be avoided.[11]

After publication, John Major made a statement saying that he was ashamed of the affair and had privately revealed the matter to his wife. Currie admitted to having been in love with him for years after the end of the affair,[16] and that he had been "the love of her life".[17] However, only weeks after revealing the affair, she publicly criticised Major, accusing him of sexism and racism and of being "one of the less competent prime ministers".[18]

The admission came after years of denial of any affair while in office and a successful libel action against playwright David Hare, who had said a sexually voracious murderer played by Charlotte Rampling in his film Paris by Night (1988) was an "Edwina Currie-like" figure. Currie had also produced several novels with explicitly erotic content - and political background - such as A Parliamentary Affair.[6] Following publication of her diaries, Express Newspapers lawyers re-examined documents in a libel case to see if there was anything in the diaries which would allow them to reopen the case and recoup damages.[19] In March 2000, Currie had been awarded £30,000 against them following a 1997 article entitled "How Edwina is now the vilest lady in Britain".[19][20]

Charity and other interests[edit]

In 2004 she took part in a sponsored cycle ride across Poland, near to the area where ancestors of hers lived, for Marie Curie Cancer Care.[21]

In 2005 in her role as a patron of the British Heart Foundation she championed a campaign to raise awareness of the effect of heart disease on women.[22]

In May 2007 the patient charity MRSA Action UK announced Currie as their patron.[23] Edwina Currie was quoted by the media championing the campaign against hospital superbugs.[24]

In October 2011, Currie took part in EurVoice, an event supported by the European Youth Parliament United Kingdom.[25]

In November 2011 she accepted the position of President of the Tideswell Male Voice Choir.[26]

Discography[edit]

As part of the 2009 TV Show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Currie teamed up with Declan Donnelly and two other celebrities to release a cover version of the Wham hit song, "Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)". Her daughter, Debbie, had previously released a single.

Year Single Chart Positions Album
UK
2009 Wake Me Up Before You Go Go 64 Charity Song (Single Only)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Edwina Currie: You ask the questions". The Independent (London). 9 February 2000. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Westminster's odd couple", BBC News Online, 28 September 2002.
  3. ^ "Mrs Currie dishes up AIDS advice". Yorkshire Post. 1987-02-13. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  4. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY | 3 | 1988: Egg industry fury over salmonella claim". BBC News. 1984-12-03. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  5. ^ "1988: Egg industry fury over salmonella claim", On this Day, BBC News Online, 3 December 1988.
  6. ^ a b c "Currie: From Parliament to print", BBC News Online, 28 September 2002.
  7. ^ "1988: Egg industry fury over salmonella claim", Why are we more scared of raw egg than reheated rice?, BBC News Online, 3 December 2013.
  8. ^ Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand Inc Code of Practice, 2002, Appendix C
  9. ^ The Telegraph newspaper: Currie 'was right' on salmonella
  10. ^ a b Whitney, Craig R. (29 March 1992). "Tories Say Party's Strategy Is Hurting Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "Currie interview in full", BBC News Online, 2 October 2002.
  12. ^ Broadcasting career, Edwina Currie's official website
  13. ^ General information, Edwina Currie's official website
  14. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing signs up Lulu and Edwina Currie". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 6 September 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  15. ^ Frequently asked questions, Edwina Currie's official website, 1 September 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  16. ^ "Major and Currie had four-year affair", BBC News Online, 28 September 2002
  17. ^ "The Major love story", The Scotsman, 30 September 2002
  18. ^ "Currie blasts Major's record in power", BBC News Online, 2 October 2002
  19. ^ a b Robert Verkaik (7 October 2002). "'Express' re-examines Currie libel papers". London: Independent Newspapers. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  20. ^ "Currie wins 'vilest lady' libel case". BBC news. 9 March 2000. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  21. ^ Edwina transforms herself into Marie Curie for Polish cycling challenge, Marie Curie Cancer Care
  22. ^ "Heart campaign targets UK women". BBC News. 6 June 2005. 
  23. ^ mrsaactionuk.net
  24. ^ govtoday.co.uk
  25. ^ eypuk.co.uk
  26. ^ News - Our New President, Tideswell Male Voice Choir website, Retrieved 1 December 2011

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for South Derbyshire
19831997
Succeeded by
Mark Todd