FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When did you first get interested in politics?
A: When I was very young. I grew up in an argumentative Liverpool Jewish household where my father would discuss matters of the day with me. By the age of six I was collecting pictures of the Queen's coronation and made a scrapbook; at nine years old (1956) I was asking questions about Suez. We knew people who had been lost in the Holocaust, so we understood all too well that the actions of politicians have a direct effect on the lives of ordinary families - we could never say, "It's nothing to do with me."
What made you a Tory?
A: I often joke that it was doing a Master's degree at the London School of Economics where many students were left-wing (or claimed to be), but my belief in freedom and responsibility strengthened during the many strikes in Liverpool in the 1960s, when it seemed impossible for any government to control Militant Tendency in the trade unions. I disagreed with CND and other anti-war organisations; to me it is of the first importance to be strong against an enemy. I was also instinctively hostile to Communism and all its paler versions and spoke up for the Tories throughout my student years including 1968.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become an MP
A: Think twice!! Living in the goldfish bowl with long hours, away from home, is not the easiest job. But we should value those who put themselves forward for elective positions; without them, democracy could not function. The advice I was given was to seek election in my mid thirties - young enough to be ambitious, old enough to know one's own mind. To anyone under 25, I would say, go do something different for 10 years. If you are still keen then, go ahead; and you'll do a better job than if you started younger.
Would you ever go back to politics?
A: Not now. I like the life I lead now; and I had 14 years in the House of Commons and a long stretch on Birmingham city council, in all 22 years in elected office. My husband John Jones was a Conservative Councillor on Reigate and Banstead council for 8 years, but he too has just finished. I remember when I and my friends were first seeking parliamentary seats, all the best ones were filled (as we saw it) with middle-aged bottoms which ought to have moved on. If I thought that then, I should not be wanting to return now. Better to encourage the next generation to take their place.
Did you enjoy Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay?
A: Enjoy is not the right word - it was very hard work, as we were on our feet from 8.30am till midnight every day. And I don't enjoy cooking - at home it's my husband who is the chef, not me. But it was the experience of a lifetime and I learned a lot. Most of all it increased my respect for people who work in kitchens - it is a very tough job.
Q6: How about Wife Swap?
A: That lasted only a week or I think I would have throttled Mr McCririck! Sharing a house with a man who declares that women are there only to fetch, carry, cook for and look after the master is no fun, and he meant it - as if the days of equality had never happened. I felt sorry for his wife, but she had a lovely time in our house being treated well by JJ, a true gent.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to work in broadcasting?
Get the best education you can. For the kind of programmes I do,
English and history, the old-fashioned subjects, are still the best.
You will need to be able to write, to analyse and to argue effectively.
It helps to pick up experience during your gap year and vacations
eg on a local newspaper or radio or TV station. Bear in mind that
the UK churns out 4,000 media studies graduates every year. There
may be 4,000 new jobs every year too, but I doubt it. Be the best
A: I've always written; I was trying to write a sequel to "My Friend Flicka" (about a horse) when I was eight. My school was the kind which enters its students for every essay and short story competition and I was one of the winners of the European Schools Day Essay competition in 1964 aged 17. The subject was, "Does television have a future?" and I reckoned it did... Many politicians become writers; we are wordsmiths and it is another way of putting across an argument whether in fiction or fact. Disraeli and Churchill both wrote novels in their spare time, Trollope stood for Parliament, Dickens thought about it and Victor Hugo was elected in France, so I am in honourable company.
Isn't it easier for a well known person to get a book published?
A: Of course. My first commission came just after I left the government in 1988: "Life Lines" was published in October 1989. But celebrity only works once. After that, to be asked again, the writing needs to be at a reasonable standard and popular with readers.
Where do you get the ideas for your books?
A: The best advice I had was, "Write what you know." My first published fiction (apart from short stories) was set in Parliament; later with "She's Leaving Home" I went back to the Liverpool of my childhood and my parents'. "Chasing Men" was grounded in my experiences as a single woman living alone in London. Only "The Ambassador", set in the future, was entirely imaginary, but it arose from my fascination with the effects of new science on the moral and social choices we make. It was intriguing and enjoyable to write.
How did you meet your husband John Jones?
A: He was on my radio programme in the summer of 1999, as a main guest on a phone-in on street crime. He was the acknowledged expert, having led the Operation Dalehouse team in London in the early 1990s which brought the conviction of hundreds of violent criminals. Since his retirement from the Metropolitan Police he has been in much demand by the media. Though he was in a different studio I thought he sounded great, so I asked my producer to give him my phone number, in case he might like to have lunch with me. We were married on May 24 2001 surrounded by our combined family of four sons, two daughters, and their spouses, partners and children, and now live in Surrey.
Q12: Would you like to do "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here?" or any other reality shows?"
A: I turned down the jungle several times as I don't enjoy hot, hummid places - though my husband really fancies a month in north Australia! I am a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing, but turned that down too as I have two left feet. But most reality shows are fun to do, and pretty harmless.
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