Carol Vorderman: ‘I’ve Finally Found My Voice’

The national treasure has turned her razor sharp brain to bringing down the Government – and she’s challenging anyone who says a woman can’t be sexy and clever. Eleanor Mills meets Carol Vorderman.

Carol Voderman

by Eleanor Mills |
Updated on

The last time I interviewed a ‘queenager’ (a midlife queen) in leather trousers it was Theresa May in Downing Street – and all hell broke loose (hello ‘Trousergate’). Today it is Carol Vorderman, national treasure and ex-Countdown pin-up, who sashays into the Bloomsbury Hotel in skintight leather strides, her hour-glass curves accessorised with a wasp-waisted patent belt, high-heeled black boots and glittery sweater. Last month, Vorderman, 63, was named as one of the people viewers of BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show would most like to see as Prime Minister... is today’s style homage to our former PM an indication that she would like the gig?

No,’ Vorderman says firmly. ‘I definitely don’t want to be an MP. But I am loving being a channel for a million people who feel like they have no voice. Politics has been corrupted since Boris Johnson was in power; [...] MPs need to be held to account. Look for the pattern and follow the money!’

In the last 15 months, Vorderman has used her radio show on Sundays at LBC and her social media to become a thorn in the side of Rishi Sunak’s Government. ‘Nothing changes in this life unless we push for it. I love bringing information into a new domain, I read accounts in Companies House, I scour trusted sources and I bring it to a public who would never usually see it. In my sixties I feel I have finally found my voice and my true purpose.’

She sits back and stirs three lumps of brown sugar into her latte, confiding, ‘I love being this age. I just don’t give a crap. I mean, even that Shaun Bailey nonsense – I just say, “How dare you!” on behalf of women everywhere.’

Ah, #sexistshaun, as she dubbed the ex-Tory London Mayor wannabe, now Baron Bailey of Paddington, who dared to say of Vorderman, ‘She’s a serious political commentator and then if you look at her Instagram it’s all pictures of her bum and her boobs. So what is it here? She can’t be both.’

Why not? Why can’t a woman post pictures of herself looking attractive and have a brain? It’s Neanderthal thinking. Vorderman laughs, telling me, ‘It’s only certain bits of the media who say women can’t be attractive and clever. Don’t conflate that media view with the public. The public don’t have a problem with women being sexy and clever, they have wives and daughters and mothers. We have a generation of younger men who feel equal to women, who love it that their girlfriends do well... they expect their girlfriends and partners to have good jobs and look good. I called Shaun out because bullies always try to silence us, to use our shame to close us down. Well, that backfired! I put it out there that he was at those No 10 Covid parties.’

In person, Vorderman is terrific, fizzing fun – down to earth, friendly and fiercely clever. ‘I have always been riotous,’ she giggles. ‘They had to calm me down. I was out in nightclubs at 15 in Rhyl, North Wales, where I grew up in abject poverty with my single mum.’ Her Dutch father left when she was a baby – she met him for the first time when she was 42.

Vorderman says she always had huge self-belief. ‘I just thought, why not? I didn’t believe in no – I wanted to be a fighter pilot; no one told me back then that women weren’t allowed. I was on free school meals but I wanted to go to Cambridge University. I persuaded my headmaster to let me apply; he said, “No one from around here has got to Cambridge.” But it didn’t put me off. You see, I’m wired differently. I just thought: why not? When I got into Sidney Sussex College to read engineering I was one of four girls on the course with 300 men.’

After Cambridge, she worked ‘underground as a civil engineer, the only woman with 2,000 men building [hydro project] Electric Mountain in Snowdonia.’ She says she’s always looked the same ‘curvy, size 8 to 10 – I got pretty good at telling men to get lost.’ It’s clear that Bailey isn’t the first man to be stumped by Vorderman’s refusal to fit into stupid stereotypes.

‘I’ve had worse insults than his before. He’s the one with the problem, not me,’ she says. Laughing that when she first got the job on Countdown in the 1980s she was dubbed ‘the vital statistician’, a play on the ‘vital statistics that dolly birds – as female presenters on telly were known as then – were expected to have’.

It is within this context, then, that we should see Vorderman’s decision to age pneumatically (she looks fantastic, her hair is glossy, her face enhanced, sure, but not scarily so). When I ask her about the Botox and surgery she’s admitted to in the past, she shakes her head. ‘It’s not about looking young, it’s about doing what you want to do.’

Suddenly, she pulls at the waistband of her leatherette leggings, giving me a flash of stomach. ‘I wear what I want. I pull on these leggings because I find them comfy. I know who I am. I’m not perfect, but my intentions are good. I have a good heart. I love the younger generation because they are trying to call stuff out – young people were so supportive when I talked about my five special friends [Vorderman doesn’t have just the one partner, she has a roster of lovers]. Older women also thought that was a great idea.’ I bet they did.

I ask if she looks the way she does because she likes the attention. She pauses. ‘I hadn’t thought of it like that but yes – I’m an extrovert and a social animal. I’m a bit outrageous, always have been.’

We talk about attitudes to older women within our culture. ‘Now I’m 63 I just don’t define myself by that number. I have nothing to prove. I just do what makes me happy. Looking the way I do gives me a certain currency, sure.’

What does she do about the haters? ‘I cop quite a lot of it but I pay no attention. I’ve had stalkers and helicopters flying over my house, I was litigious to keep my two kids out of the public eye. Misogyny is just a subsection of other bullying. On social media I mute certain words: Botox, plastic, slag, whore, slut. That gets rid of a lot of the ad hominem attacks.’ She pauses, swigs down the last of her coffee and beams at me.

The vast majority out there are lovely,’ she says. ‘But there is a subset of nasty men and nasty women. It’s not men versus women, mind, just a few bullies whom, if I were a legislator, I would sort out.’

With that, she is off – leaving me wanting more and wishing she were running for PM. The world needs more feisty queenagers.

Carol Vorderman can be heard on LBC Radio on Sundays, 4-7pm.

Eleanor Mills is the Founder of – home of the queenager.

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