Caroline Flint - Fact or Fiction?
Published by Ellie Warfield for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
Caroline Flint - Fact or Fiction?
In the third instalment of our much talked-about new series, we cross the political divide to reveal 10 ‘facts’ about Shadow Communities Secretary Caroline Flint and ask you to work out which is merely window dressing. Scroll down the page to find out the answer.
1. Tough childhood
Known for her stony facial expressions when fielding questions from the media, Flint broke down in tears back in 2009 when being interviewed about her upbringing. Born at a home for unmarried mothers in north London, Flint never knew her biological father and was adopted at the age of two by her stepfather Peter Flint. She recalls living in a one-room flat: “My sister and I slept on one side of the wardrobe and my parents on the other.” Flint’s mother died at the age of 45 from alcohol-related liver problems.
2. Holiday romance turns sour
On a 1985 holiday to Tunisia with a group of friends, Flint met Saief Zammel, a 28-year-old stockbroker who fell in love with her at first sight. He later recalled: “She was beautiful and I asked her to dance. I knew I wanted her as soon as I saw her.” They married in 1987 and had two children but sadly, following a series of domestic incidents, one of which led to Zammel’s arrest for violent disorder, the couple split and he was deported.
3. Foiled armed bank robber
Back in 1994, Flint and partner Phil Cole were queuing at a branch of NatWest bank in Surrey when a gun-toting raider burst through the doors demanding money and threatening to shoot anyone that tried to get in his way. When cashiers refused to serve him, he put a gun to a customer’s head. Taking up the story, Flint recalls: “We didn’t realise what was going on until a man who had marched up to the front of the queue suddenly pulled out a gun. As we were at the back of the queue, we managed to slip out unnoticed.” The couple raised the alarm at a nearby jeweller’s then noticed the robber calmly walking down the street with a carrier bag. Cole then gave pursuit
and eventually brought the gunman crashing to the ground with a spectacular rugby tackle. During the ensuing struggle, the robber took out the gun and put his hand on the trigger. Fortunately, two passers-by came to help and the police arrived within minutes. The couple’s heroic actions and ‘crucial’ evidence led to the man getting a 10-year prison sentence. The gun was later found to be a replica.
4. Tap dancer
Since first entering Parliament back in 1997, one of Flint’s proudest early achievements as an MP was to help set up the Division Belles tap-dancing troupe with fellow ‘tapper’ Hazel Blears (remember her?) Her love of dance and all things fitness-related served
her well during her time as Minister for Public Health when the Daily Telegraph described her as: “Glossy of hair, flawless of skin and practically rattling with vitamins.”
5. Controversial housing minister
On being appointed Minister for Housing in 2008, Flint used her maiden speech in the post to call for jobless social housing tenants to find work or lose their home. Announcing her ‘employment contract’ plans, she told the Fabian Society: “The link between social housing and worklessness is stark. We need to think radically and start a national debate.” Flint’s idea caused uproar, particularly within her own party. John McDonnell said: “To threaten to make people homeless is more brutal than anything we’ve seen since the end of the Poor Law.” Austin Mitchell, meanwhile, believed Flint had ‘flipped’.
6. Housing crisis revealed
After a couple of gaffe-free months, Flint was back in the headlines in May 2008 when she accidentally revealed the full extent of the housing crisis facing the country by allowing her briefing papers to be snapped by press photographers outside Downing Street. The fact she carried them in a see-through folder didn’t help. According to her brief, house prices were expected to fall ‘between five and 10 per cent’ that year but
perhaps more damagingly for the Government, it also noted: “We can’t tell how bad it will get.”
7. Film lover
A self-confessed movie fanatic, Flint’s favourite film of all time is the classic John Wayne
Western ‘The Searchers’. She has also admitted to enjoying the work of Seth Rogan and Michael Cera, including the distinctly un-PC ‘Superbad’.
8. The lady in red
During Gordon Brown’s time at Number 10, Flint seemed unable to hold down a Cabinet post for more than a few months at a time and was eventually ditched altogether. In a feisty resignation letter, she claimed Brown was running a ‘two-tier government’ and that she felt she had been treated as ‘female window dressing’. It perhaps didn’t help her cause that just a few weeks previously she had posed ‘provocatively’ in a red dress for the Observer newspaper’s Woman magazine.
9. Applied for Big Brother
Never one to stay out of the limelight for long, after leaving the Government in 2009,
Flint immediately filled in an application to appear on that summer’s Big Brother. Unfortunately she was turned down by the show’s producers who felt she lacked gravitas compared to other contestants and would merely provide ‘female window
10. Sexiest MP?
Throughout her time in Parliament, Flint has regularly ranked highly in ‘Sexiest MPs’ surveys. She is currently placed joint second in the ‘official’ Sky News poll alongside Harriet Harman (!?) In first place is Labour’s Luciana Berger, perhaps helped by the fact that she is 20 years Flint’s junior. Flint confesses her looks are a ‘double-edged sword’
and feels aggrieved that male MPs are never judged in the same way.
ANSWER: Number nine was the work of fiction. To our knowledge, Caroline Flint has never applied to appear on Big Brother, not even the Celebrity version.