Belfast Telegraph

Nancy Dell'Olio: 'The fact Theresa May doesn't have children makes it easier for her and her age means that she is mature'

Celebrity lawyer Nancy Dell'Olio may be best known for her relationship with ex-England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson, but she's not afraid to air her views on politics and plenty of other things besides.

By Susannah Butter

Celebrity siren Nancy Dell'Olio is delivering a feminist rallying cry.

"The world is ready to be run by women," says the Italian former lawyer who first came to public attention when she was going out with then-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson back in 2002. Dell'Olio has been left broken-hearted by Brexit but "is a positive person" and thinks that Theresa May will save the country.

With a glossy pout she dismisses Andrea Leadsom, who bowed out of the Tory leadership race on Monday. "Why have a contest when you have a perfectly good candidate already? I've met May at a few social political events and I like her. Not just because she is a woman - it has to be the right woman and she looks suitable for the job. We need a change, quickly."

Dell'Olio (54) stood for Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party in 1995 ("I was young, it was a great moment to make a little change") and says she is "opinionated and likes to take part - maybe one day I would like to be involved more in politics".

But more of her political commentary later, now we must discuss alcohol and Dell'Olio's latest incarnation as an entrepreneur. We meet at one of her favourite London Hotels, The Belgrave, to talk about her new venture, a spirit called Limonbello. It has just three ingredients, alcohol and agave syrup, infused with lemon peel.

The label reflects that it is "based on tradition, not old but timeless" and its yellow colour adds a cheery note, like the glittery red nail varnish Dell'Olio wears on her fingers and toes and her gold eyeshadow. Her small, tanned frame is weighed down with hefty jewellery - including diamonds that are "special to me" and a pendant she fiddles with. Her perfume has a lingering honey scent.

She is adamant about what Limonbello isn't and says in a firm manner which gives me a flash of what she must have been like as a lawyer: "I am flattered when people bracket me with David Beckham or Angelina Jolie in being a celebrity branding a drink but I am an entrepreneur. I want to make it clear that this is not limoncello. For me limoncello is undrinkable. I wanted to do something in line with my action against sugar."

She was inspired by tequila, which contains naturally sweet agave syrup instead of sugar. Conveniently no sugar means it's eligible for tax breaks, which shrewd businesswoman Dell'Olio is planning to apply for.

Does less sugar mean a kinder hangover? "We're talking 30% alcohol," she smiles.

"But there's less sugar, so at least you'll have no headache. We'll see after the launch. You can drink it as an aperitif and it's fantastic in cocktails. I like champagne and have mixed it with prosecco to make a limonsecco. It's better than an Aperol spritz and more fun than gin and tonic."

We decide that she should send a bottle to David Cameron to cheer him up. It could be the fortification he needs - it tastes strong, clean and naturally lemony.

Despite being a Londoner - she lives alone near Soho - Dell'Olio was not entitled to vote in the EU referendum because she has Italian and US citizenship.

"I am sorry for Mr Cameron but the scandal for me was that he put this delicate, important matter to a referendum. He created a casino with too high stakes and has had to pay the consequences. Brexit doesn't make sense because we have been working hard for globalisation and modernisation." She admits that "London is one reality compared to the rest of the UK".

But having May will help, not just politically. "Theresa May does make an effort with clothes, she has more style. I don't take note what the others wear because they never wear stuff I like," she says.

She's excited about Hillary Clinton and doesn't want to consider the option of Trump. She thinks that "women are much cooler than men in many respects; they are more practical and politics requires a lot of common sense. Women should stay female in politics and never try to become men. Nicola Sturgeon is a strong personality - tough but with a gentle touch, like a woman."

What does she make of Leadsom's remarks that May is at a disadvantage because she is not a mother? "It's easier for her not having children. And her age means she is mature."

Dell'Olio decided not to have children at 17 and says, "I have some personal issues but also I have a great sense of reality - and you have to be conscious that children change your life completely."

Another politician she admires is Tony Blair. She has previously called him "sexy". The Chilcot report upset her. "It is disgraceful. I am so pleased that Tony did not apologise. I believe he knew what he was doing and would make the same choice again. Of course, to write this long report you have to say something and I am sorry for all the people dying and those who don't want to believe they died without a reason, but we are better off without Saddam Hussein."

Why does she think Blair was criticised in the Press? "Because he makes a lot of money and this country can't accept it."

Today, Labour is "a complete mess. They could have taken advantage but not with the leader they have. I don't understand why someone who received a no-confidence vote would want to stay."

But she likes Sadiq Khan's "moderate tone". "I have not met him and know more of Zac Goldsmith but I am pleased with the new Mayor. London had enough of Boris. His campaign for Brexit was terrible. I disagree with many of the choices he made for London."

Sven-Goran Eriksson is off limits but she does still watch football and is an Arsenal fan loyal to Arsene Wenger. She says that being England manager is "a hard job, especially in this country".

Could Jose Mourinho take over from Roy Hodgson? "I hope not. I don't like him anyway but the way he behaved with Eva Carneiro was disgraceful. He was not a gentleman and he paid the consequences." Is there sexism in football? "There is sexism in the country."

Her work is "24/7" but she balances it with a social life, reading (currently Us by David Nicholls, which she lent to her mother) and trips to the theatre - "it's upsetting when you don't have time to see plays". She enthuses about The Deep Blue Sea at the National: "Helen McCrory is excellent. The play deals with emotions, which are the most important thing for human beings."

She does pilates but her main beauty tip is to "drink a lot of water, together with champagne". What does she make of surgery and lunchtime Botox to defy the signs of ageing? "Surgery is another story to Botox. It's a personal choice. People have lunchtime Botox because they don't have any other time."

Tracey Emin is a friend - "I love her." But she doesn't know about her complaints about the 50p tax rate.

"Everyone has to look after their own interests. People should contribute and pay tax, it is a duty and the rich should be paying more but you have to make it not hard to pay and let people have things in return. You shouldn't be cutting spending to raise tax."

Dell'Olio thrives on deal-making but seems straightforward. When I ask about fellow entrepreneur Sir Philip Green she says: "Would I like to work with him, no, but would I like him to invest with me, yes." She makes a good case for spending money: "It circulates. I don't like the word budget. Sometimes you have to take care but I am not good at it. I spend most on lifestyle."

This summer is hectic, she is working on a TV programme and "would like to help women be more entrepreneurial". Luckily she only needs five hours sleep a night: "You can retreat when you die."

But, she adds, "You shouldn't take things too seriously." This is part of her appeal: "I'm honest and straightforward and I think that I'm funny. I've always attracted a lot of attention."

She speaks fondly of her parents, her father is 90 and a retired businessman; her mother speaks four languages and gave up her job as a translator to bring up four children.

Is she seeing anyone? "No one I want to make people aware of, so I will say no. I am serene and going through an exciting time working 24/7."

She leaves me with a bottle of Limonbello and, in a domestic touch, a recipe for using it to marinate chicken, with strict instructions to add rosemary. "Come to the launch," she says, before checking herself. "Well. Once I've seen the article I'll decide."

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