Last week Edwina Currie appeared on a Radio 5 Live Phone-in programme about poverty, and reduced a young mum, who had told the programme that she was going without food to ensure that her children ate, to tears by accusing her of suffering now because she had ‘lived the high life’ in the past.
Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes in Edwina Currie’s company will not be in the least surprised by her heartless and callous response to the desperate plight of another human being.
When I heard the story, it took me back to 1995 when I spent the best part of two weeks with Mrs Currie (and others, I hasten to add), as part of a group of UK Parliamentarians and Political Apparatchiks who were given the task of lecturing the fledgling Bosnian Political Parties on political campaigning as part of Dayton Agreement. I know we don’t really do tittle-tattle and gossip on this site, but I had to share a story of that trip with you.
As an aside, I first met the former Health Minister at Belgrade Airport lounge bar – upon being introduced to me, she immediately declared – ‘I know all about you, you’re clearly gay.’
‘That’s interesting,’ I replied, ‘what makes you think that.’
‘It’s obvious,’ said Mrs Currie, ‘you’re drinking beer directly from a bottle.’
Having decided not to disabuse her of her of that particular view, I admit that initially, I grew strangely fond of Edwina as she spent the next two weeks valiantly ensuring that in every city we visited there would be a hairdressing salon, oblivious to the fact that we were in places that only months earlier had seen dreadful war and ethnic cleansing.
Eventually we arrived at Sarajevo where we met some of the most incredible people imaginable, people whose bravery and resilience were a lesson to everybody, apart, that is from Edwina Currie.
During a seminar attended by various luminaries from political parties stretching right across the political spectrum (there were as you can imagine a lot of political parties in the former Yugoslavia at that time), we heard stories about the bombardment and blockade of the city by the Serbs – we were told of the thousands of people who had died and the suffering of those who had remained in the city. I remember one young women telling us how they had had to eat grass and nettles to survive during the worst of it.
After hearing these stories, our lectures about political pamphleting and organising meetings and campaigns seemed utterly out of place, but our audience listened attentively. At the end of the session, one young politico and war veteran stood up and very politely thanked us for our time and our help – ‘our problem,’ he told us, ‘is also one of finances, at the moment we have no money for paper and all the means of producing leaflets have been destroyed.’ Upon hearing this Mrs Currie, leapt to her feet and told him with astonishing arrogance and brutal ignorance of his plight – that they wouldn’t be getting any money, because she knew that it would all be spent on Rolex Watches and BMW Cars. I remember the interpreter nervously asking us whether we really wanted her words translated and Edwina Currie insisted that they were.
As the faces of our audience formed expressions of absolute incredulity, then anger, I have to say, that rarely have I been more embarrassed by anything in my life.
So, when I heard about Mrs Currie’s outburst against the young impoverished mother, I wasn’t at all surprised – perhaps the biggest surprise is that anyone is remotely interested in anything this exceptionally stupid woman has to say about anything.