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EDITIONS
London Mayor Friday, 5 May, 2000, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Steve Norris: Tory who ran as a liberal
Steve Norris: Retired from politics but returned to fight for mayor
For Steve Norris, who ran Ken Livingstone a far closer race than expected, it had been the case of third time lucky.

His route to become the Tory candidate for London mayor became as dogged as anything Mr Livingstone had to face, although at the end of the day, Norris was at least able to say he had been elected on a one member, one vote basis.

Late last year Norris was beaten to become the Conservatives' mayoral candidate by the millionaire author Lord Archer.

But when Archer was forced to resign after the tabloid revelation that he had asked a friend to lie for him prior to a libel case, Norris was given another chance to become the Tory candidate.

Lord Archer: Resigned as Tory candidate
Many assumed the nomination would automatically go to Norris, whose previous role as minister for transport in London appeared to make him an obvious choice.

Instead the party decided to restage the contest and Norris had to reapply, only to be almost blocked from the party's shortlist over concerns surrounding his colourful private life.

Conservative chairman Michael Ancram had to wade into the row and reinstate Norris, overriding the original decision by the party's mayoral executive to block him.

But the incident unearthed a groundswell of support for Norris, who finally became the party's candidate in January.

Like Frank Dobson, Norris is not a Londoner by birth, though he has adopted the city as his home.

Liverpool beginnings

He was born in Liverpool in 1945, educated at the same grammar school as Paul McCartney and George Harrison and then at Oxford.

Instead of following a career in the law, which he studied, he went into the motor trade and became a franchise-holder for Volkswagen and Audi in the 70s and 80s.

Norris had been in the Labour club at Oxford but it was as a Tory councillor that he entered politics when he was elected on to Berkshire County Council in 1977.

Norris was not fond of commuters as a minister
Five years later, he was selected from 200 applicants to stand for the Oxford East seat which he won in 1983 and held until 1987 when he became the only Tory to lose his seat in the south of England, to the current chief secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Smith.

Norris was considered for numerous by-elections the following year, including the Richmond contest which elected William Hague, and eventually won the seat of Epping Forest.

During his time in Parliament, he served as the parliamentary private secretary to three ministers before being appointed as a junior minister for transport in London in 1992.

He was then promoted in 1994 to minister for local transport and road safety but stood down at the 1997 general election in preference of earning some "serious money" and became director general of the Road Haulage Association.

It was a position which maintained him in the spotlight until he stood down to concentrate on the mayoral battle, although he does remain a director of a number of transport-related companies.

Norris is as candid about the reasons he left Parliament as he is about how he lost his cash made from his dealerships during the recession a decade ago.

Similarly, he is also open about the relationships with five "mistresses" exposed by the tabloids during the "back to basics" era which earned him the nickname of "Shagger", although he insisted the affairs stretched over 25 years.

Norris married Emma Courtney in April
He has two sons by his first wife Vicky, whom he married in 1969, and another son with his current wife, Emma, whom he married last month.

Norris lives in Clapham, south London, and despite his Liverpool roots, is someone who has chosen London as his adopted city - illustrated by the fact that though an Everton fan by birth, he is now a Fulham season ticket holder.

As an MP, he supported the death penalty, football identity cards, the Poll Tax, student loans and has described commuters as "dreadful human beings".

But his mayoral battle was fought on a more liberal social agenda.

Labelled the Tory candidate that "dare not speak" the party's name by his opponents, Norris stood for the repeal of Section 28 and a London which reflected and catered for its ethnic minority population.

He also called for the consideration of cannabis to be used in the treatment of medical complaints and called for police to overlook the law against "'discreet public sex" between homosexuals.

Many have enjoyed the return of one of the Tories' most affable warhorses back to the spotlight and despite being unable to become London's first directly elected mayor, it is unlikely Norris will remain out of the public eye for very long.

Links to more London Mayor stories are at the foot of the page.


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