There’s something Victorian about Stephen Norris, the former Tory
MP and defeated Conservative candidate in the London mayoral race, and
recently appointed consultant at Citigate Westminster. He could easily
play a Dickensian mill owner in an 1800s frock coat, with long
’Honesty, honesty, honesty, is what they need, Mr Hague, you mark my
words,’ you can imagine him trumpeting over late-night port at Central
He possesses a charming, pragmatic, gruff, down-to-earth and strangely
addictive persona. His facial expressions and the heavy jowls and
pleading eyes - beg you to agree with him. Listen intently, anyway.
He sees himself as moderniser and mobiliser of the ’great
But he likes money, and glory. His ambition is driven by his ’bank’, and
he left politics after 15 years because of the risible pay. ’I felt
strongly I could not afford to stay in Parliament.’ he surrenders. So
55-year-old Norris left politics in 1997, when Tory voters became
’disgusted with us’.
He took up several positions. He had his own advisory business to helm,
and became director general of the Road Haulage Association, which
welcomed his expertise in public transport, an area he covered as a
minister. And Norris found the salary more agreeable, too, reportedly
pounds 150,000 per annum.
’I didn’t leave politics because of some mid-life, financial crisis.
It was more prosaic than that. I had suffered very badly during the
1988/90 recession, and I had a lot of catching up to do,’ says Norris,
who started out in the second hand car and truck trade.
Then came Lord Archer’s downfall in the middle of the London mayoral
race last year, and Norris again heard the words that first drove him
into politics: The price good men pay for not being involved in politics
is to be governed by people less able than themselves.
’It’s Plato. If you asked me what got me politics, this is it.’ he
He regrets not winning the right to wear the mayoral race but since
starting ’a serious and long term commitment’ to Citigate, rumours
abound that he is set to rejoin the Tory party for the 2001
’Let me clear this up. It absolutely not true. I have not been offered a
job, but I have had discussions with William Hague and left it with him
to make a decision in his own time,’ he says. Norris can also be
cunning, if not ambiguous in his replies. A small habit, perhaps, that
he picked-up on past campaign trails.
To Citigate he brings clients and contacts, ’vast’ experience, and an
undisputed talent for communicating. ’I respect the professionalism of
the PR and public affairs industry. I have developed an unusual client
base for a classic, public relations professional. It’s a very active
client base, and I discussed at length the rationale of my joining
Citigate Westminster with Warwick Smith,’ says Norris, who has varied
’assignments’ from financial to legal. ’HR disputes to patent
registration disputes,’ he notes. He says he is only as good as his
reputation. ’People listen to me because I never bullshit them,’ he
Norris was known as the ’boss’ by his mayoral campaign team. ’He has
genuine charisma, as a person, as a politician and as a communicator,’
says campaign manager Ceri Evans. ’I witnessed him change the dynamics
of a room by his very presence, then by the force of his conviction, and
his communications skills.’
’Steve is a natural media performer. In the mayoral election it was
noted how he was not dissimilar to Ken Livingstone - both have a sense
of humour, no pomposity, are user-friendly and are the sort of guy
people respond to,’ says Bob Neill, leader of the Conservatives on the
Greater London Authority.
Tabloid hacks poured over his past after Archer’s public disgrace, and
he received the obligatory ’sensational’ column inches as he ran for
The tabloids sleuths produced five names, past girlfriends, none
contemporary, and all consecutive, rather than concurrent. ’Big deal. So
what? I was in my late-40s and been separated for 20 years. Is that a
colourful life? No. Remarkable? No,’ he adds.
While Norris the PR showman and his contacts book will be put to good
use at Citigate, Norris the politician undoubtedly wants to make an
impact during the Tory election campaign. ’I’m 55 and of the Kennedy
I remember him asking not what your country can do for you, but what you
can do for your country. If you are not involved in the political
process, then don’t complain when less competent people are. Our enemy
is that great vast lump of proletariat that don’t even bother to
1992: Conservative transport minister
1997: Director general, Road Haulage Assoc.
1999: Conservative London mayoral candidate
2000: Consultant, Citigate Westminster.