PROFILE: Steve Norris, Citigate Westminster - Variety for Citigate’s natural PR performer. Steve Norris has joined Citigate, but his politicking days are far from over

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 side-burns.

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

side-burns.



’Honesty, honesty, honesty, is what they need, Mr Hague, you mark my

words,’ you can imagine him trumpeting over late-night port at Central

Office.



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

proletariat’.



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

says.



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

election.



’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

adds.



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

mayor.



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

generation.



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

vote.’





HIGHLIGHTS



1992: Conservative transport minister



1997: Director general, Road Haulage Assoc.



1999: Conservative London mayoral candidate



2000: Consultant, Citigate Westminster.



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