Nothing Like a Dame

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Nothing Like a Dame
Nothing Like A Dame cover.png
Author Andrew Hosken
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Shirley Porter
Genre Non-fiction, Biography
Publisher Granta Books
Publication date
1 October 2006
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages xii, 372 (first edition)
ISBN 9781862078093
OCLC 62479273
Followed by Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone

Nothing Like a Dame: The Scandals of Shirley Porter is a 2006 biography by British journalist Andrew Hosken.[1] The book was first published on 1 October 2006 through Granta UK and discusses British politician Shirley Porter's time served as a member of the Westminster City Council.


The book discusses Porter's time served under the Westminster City Council and the resulting fallout. Hosken also includes several interviews and looks into Porter's history as the daughter of Jack Cohen.[2]


The Guardian gave a positive review for Nothing Like A Dame, calling it "enthralling".[3] Bloomberg gave a more mixed review, remarking that it was "riveting" but also "uneven".[4] In contrast, The Contemporary Review praised Hosken's research.[5] Jay Rayner, reviewing for The Observer, felt that the book was: "probably as comprehensive an account of Porter's time in power, and the bullying, plotting, maladministration and corruption that went with it, as we are likely to get."[6] Francis Beckett described it as: "a splendid book, as easy to read as a good thriller... It's also very thorough, with an immense amount of detail, presented remarkably digestibly."[7]

Christian Wolmar wrote that the book: "tells the story brilliantly, often with greatly enlightening and entertaining detail, and breaking up the chronology to deal with the various individual scandals which individually are shocking enough but together suggest that the very basis of the administration was corrupt." On the negative side, Wolmar was critical of the lack of references, "a result of the publisher seeking to keep it to a manageable length but hopefully an omission that will be remedied in the paperback version as this is a subject ripe for future generations to study as a classic failure of governance."[8]


The cover of the book consists of a photograph of Porter which she had posed for use in a feature article about her in The Sunday Times. Jenny Diski, for the London Review of Books, was, however, critical of the cover, writing:

...the picture on the front of Hosken's book is of Porter as a racial caricature. Bright lumps of gold adorn her ears and finger, brass buttons decorate her blazer, a gold smiley-face pendant hangs round her neck, the most garish of orange lipstick outlines her lips, her arms are arrogantly akimbo, her less than gracile facial features perform an ugly, over-bronzed sneer of contempt. She is outsized against the background, looming over London, the curse of the 50-foot woman, lording it over and diminishing the Houses of Parliament and the City: common as muck and in control. Call me oversensitive, but she's not just dreadful, she's so Jewish.[9]

Nicholas Lezard, for The Guardian, countered:

To get to the substance of the book you are going to have to surmount the considerable obstacle of its front cover. Diski calls this a "racial caricature", but it's not, it's a photograph, of Porter in her prime: the contemptuous stare, the alarming lipstick, the shoulder-pads.[3]

Lezard was also dismissive of Diski's "[detection of] a trace of anti-semitism in patrician attitudes to Porter," calling it "understandable, but to which one reasonable counter-claim might be that it didn't stop her from becoming leader of Westminster council."[3]

Radio play[edit]

In December 2009 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a Friday Play, described as a "tragic comedy", based upon Hosken's book.[10] The radio play, Shirleymander, was written by Gregory Evans, directed by Marc Beeby and starred Tracy-Ann Oberman as Shirley Porter.[11] Reception for the radio drama was positive, with The Daily Telegraph praising Beeby for his casting and choice of music.[12][13]

Early day motion[edit]

The book was the subject of an early day motion tabled in the House of Commons on 20 April 2006 "[congratulating] BBC Today reporter Andy Hosken on his book, Nothing Like a Dame, recounting the story of Dame Shirley Porter's regime at Westminster City Council...." The motion went on to "[call] upon the Government to recommend to Her Majesty the Queen, that the honour of [Porter's] DBE should be withdrawn, it having been awarded under false pretences, and representing an affront to those whose public service genuinely merits such recognition."[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duff, Oliver (23 March 2006). "Biography of Shirley Porter lays bare her abuse of power". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  2. ^ McKinstry, Leo (18 March 2006). "High priestess of Tory sleaze". The Spectator. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Lezard, Nicholas (24 March 2007). "A truth more ghastly than fiction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Vickers, Ben (27 April 2006). "Tales of How a Tesco Heiress Sold London Graves, Gerrymandered". Bloomberg. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "Nothing Like a Dame: The Scandals of Shirley Porter". The Contemporary Review. 288 (1683): 532. Winter 2006. (Archived at The Free Library.). 
  6. ^ Rayner, Jay (26 March 2006). "Nothing Like A Dame by Andrew Hosken". The Observer. London. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Beckett, Francis (22 April 2006). "Council of despair". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Wolmar, Christian (1 May 2006). "Book Review: Andrew Hosken's Nothing Like A Dame". Christian Wolmar. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Diski, Jenny (25 May 2006). "Be mean and nasty". London Review of Books. London. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Friday Drama: Shirleymander". BBC Radio 4. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Bar-Hillel, Mira (27 November 2009). "Westminster chief: We're sorry for Dame Shirley and 'homes for votes'". London Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (30 November 2009). "A Family Affair (Radio 4)". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  13. ^ Petty, Moira (30 November 2009). "Radio review: Shirleymander". The Stage. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "Early day motion 1998: ANDY HOSKEN'S BOOK ON DAME SHIRLEY PORTER". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 20 April 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2013.