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I love to speak my mind and I've always been a rebel in a way

Published 21/05/2016

Edwina will reveal all from her remarkable career in her speaking tour
Edwina will reveal all from her remarkable career in her speaking tour
Edwina Currie
Edwina Currie

Former politician Edwina Currie has undertaken all sorts of challenges, including a stint on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! She tells Gabrielle Fagan why she is still very much a force to be reckoned with.

There aren't many people who can switch from tales of eating witchetty grubs and surviving the I'm A Celeb jungle, to debating the merits of immigration, the referendum and Jeremy Corbyn, but Edwina Currie does it with aplomb.

The former Tory politician, who will turn 70 this year, is definitely still a force to be reckoned with and clearly has lost none of her taste for being outspoken. That resolute determination to speak her mind cost her her job as health minister in 1988 when she resigned over the salmonella in eggs controversy.

"There's still someone on Twitter who thinks the 'Eggwina' nickname is original and hilarious, but actually I was eventually proved right for telling the truth and warning people about eggs," Currie declares robustly as she chats before embarking on her first speaking tour, Politically Incorrect! Edwina's Tales From the Jungle (and elsewhere!).

"I applaud whistleblowers. I had to speak out because people at that time were getting ill and dying and eventually the egg industry came to me and said, 'you were right' and sorted it out. I've always believed in saying what I think, although I realise that while people say they want honest politicians, they don't like it sometimes when they get one."

An MP for South Derbyshire for 14 years, she still lives in the area and survived the cut and thrust of politics, which, she claims, ensured she was well prepared mentally for going into the jungle in 2014 for the ITV reality show.

"I told the producers before I went I'd met a lot of rats in politics and so encountering the real thing in the jungle wouldn't be too bad," says Currie, who famously had a four-year affair with former prime minister John Major during her time in office. She left parliament in 1997.

"After all, sitting in a hammock enjoying the sunshine, eating rice and beans without a mobile phone going off every five minutes, isn't that hard really, although you do feel hungry pretty constantly. Mind you, there's always an idiot, usually from Essex - I'm not touring there, ha! - who thinks that at the end of the day's filming they're going to wheel out a trolley with pizzas.

"I replaced Gemma Collins [formerly of Essex reality show TOWIE], who really believed there'd be food at the end of every day!" says Currie, who impressed with her determination to succeed at the challenges and came fourth in the competition.

While the show was a lucrative diversion - she earned almost £100,000 - and she also took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2011, as well as penning a slew of books, she clearly misses being a politician and relishes an opportunity to expound her views. Here are just five examples:

On the referendum: "I support staying in Europe - among the many compelling reasons is the fact we now have the best car industry in Europe and France, as a competitor, would love us to come out."

On labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn: "Let's just say there's a reason why, after 32 years in parliament, the nation had never heard of Jeremy until his election to leader last summer. We Tories should be very nice about him and hope he fights the next election because he makes every Tory look normal - that's an achievement!"

On David Cameron: "One of the best prime ministers we've ever had - a decent bloke with an extraordinarily steady hand and highly intelligent. I'm guessing he'll leave in 2018 and his successor will be somebody nobody's yet heard of who's quietly working away on the inside. I doubt it'll be Boris Johnson - however clever he may be down south, he doesn't cut the mustard up north as they regard him as a buffoon."

On immigration: "The world has changed and that's the way it is. I think some of the concerns about immigration are down to racism, but for others it's down to fear of change. We have 15 million people in Britain who are pensioners - I am one - and you can feel very uncomfortable because the world seems to change awfully fast and the old respect and traditions seem swept away as so much rubbish. But I say, look closer, because younger people and new attitudes and ideas often express the same great values of tolerance and kindness, just in a different way. We have so many people who come here that we can value for their skills, for instance in the NHS. We should be proud we attract them."

On obesity: Recently, she declared that Ashley Graham, a US lingerie queen praised as a size 14 for bringing "natural curves" into focus in the fashion world, was "obese".

"I don't regret that because the idea of having a really fat, obese woman as a role model simply encourages people to think it's ok to be heavily overweight and it isn't. The health implications are high blood pressure, diabetes and a host of other problems that shorten people's lives. I've battled my weight and know it's not easy, but I've also had a relative die of diabetes. It's so important to try to stay healthy."

Edwina enjoys happy domesticity with her second husband, retired police detective, John Jones. She has two daughters and her eldest, Deborah (41), who once worked as a glamour model during a rebellious youth, is now a single mother with a 10-year-old daughter, Zoe.

"With John I have a happiness I never dreamt of - we've been married 15 years - and I adore being a grandmother. Zoe's a chip off the old block in that she likes to go against the tide and currently prefers books to mobiles and iPads," she says proudly.

"It's true, Deborah was a rebel, but so was I in my way. I fought to go to university instead of leaving school and going out to work as my family expected. And whenever there's been a bandwagon going one way, I'll go, 'whoa!' and probably head in the opposite direction.

"These days Deborah says, 'I'm turning into you' because she often finds herself saying to Zoe what I used to say to her as a child. I was a strict mum, but I always tried to listen to my daughters and guide them. Hopefully I didn't do too bad a job at parenting."

  • Edwina Currie is touring with her one woman show, Politically Incorrect! Edwina's Tales From The Jungle (and elsewhere!). For all of Edwina's latest projects go to edwinacurrie.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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