ALISON BOSHOFF: When two TV queens go to war

When two TV queens go to war: One wants to be PM and the other’s the doyenne of the breakfast sofa. ALISON BOSHOFF examines why Lorraine Kelly and Esther McVey are at each other’s throats

The off-screen cliques and feuds were such that the joke was GMTV stood for ‘grumpy, moody, tired and vicious’. There was a famous falling- out (since mended) between Eamonn Holmes and Anthea Turner, during which he supposedly called his highly paid co-host ‘Princess Tippy Toes’ and said he would quit if she wasn’t sacked.

Then there were reports of a froideur between Eamonn and Fiona Phillips — she recently observed that he was better paid and also got perks she ‘wasn’t deemed worthy of’.

Now, an icy exchange between GMTV veterans Lorraine Kelly and Esther McVey (who is also a Tory leadership hopeful), has revealed yet another behind-the-scenes fault line. First, on Monday, Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan did a link asking Lorraine if she remembered McVey from the days they both worked at ITV. Lorraine gave a short: ‘Yep. Yes I do’ and made not even a token attempt to appear anything other than hostile.

That awkward TV moment: Esther and Lorraine during Monday’s confrontation

Esther tried to defuse speculation of a feud by saying Lorraine was only peeved — and, by implication, jealous — because she had once leapfrogged her in a promotion.

Esther said: ‘She used to be partnered with Eamonn Holmes and then I was promoted to be partnering with Eamonn Holmes.’

Lorraine hit back, saying she didn’t remember any interaction with Esther during the four months they overlapped, and claiming the issue between them is political — she hates Esther’s stance on LGBT rights and is ‘sick to the back teeth’ of the ‘toxic political atmosphere’.

Lorraine, 59, and Esther, 51, are both proudly self-made women who have raised themselves up from humble beginnings to become successful women of substance.

But, as ALISON BOSHOFF reveals, the animosity runs a little deeper than mere politics…


It’s been claimed the bad blood is not, in fact, due to Esther getting a gig with Eamonn that Lorraine would have liked. Sources from the time say that Lorraine was never in the running to stand in next to Eamonn during Fiona Phillips’s maternity leave in 1999.

She was already presenting the hugely popular Lorraine Live show at the end of GMTV — which was a solo slot and a bigger role.

Instead, it is claimed Lorraine wasn’t wild about Esther because she took a job on the show when the expectation was that it would go to the popular, long-serving news presenter Penny Smith.

Penny, who left the programme in 2010, is close pals with Lorraine.

And it’s fair to say the intervening years haven’t made Lorraine any warmer towards Esther.

Lorraine said yesterday: ‘I’m baffled . . . I’ve had my own show since 1992, and I don’t think she joined until five years later.

An icy exchange between GMTV veterans Lorraine Kelly (pictured in her early days) and Esther McVey has revealed yet another behind-the-scenes fault line

‘As far as sharing dressing rooms go . . . it was just a little room everyone shared and we got ready in. It wasn’t a dressing room with couches — it wasn’t palatial at all.

‘I’ll be genuinely honest with you, I don’t remember. It was such a long time ago. My show was totally separate . . . so there was no interaction.’ She added: ‘Yesterday I just got sick to the back teeth of the whole toxic political atmosphere and I thought: “I’ve had enough of this.”

‘I strongly disagree with [Esther] on LGBT rights. And they’ve been going round in circles on Brexit for two years and it’s got to stop.’

Esther voted in Parliament against same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Lorraine has been hailed as an ‘honorary gay’ by Attitude magazine and was given an award for her support of the LGBT community at their 2015 awards ceremony.


Both Lorraine and Esther were the children of impoverished teenage parents. Esther’s mum and dad gave her up to a Barnardo’s home for foster care for nearly five years, while Lorraine’s resisted pressure from family to give her up for adoption.

Lorraine was born in 1959. Her mum Anne was 17 and dad John, a TV repairman, 18. The family, including her brother, lived in one room in the Gorbals in Glasgow.

Lorraine said: ‘In one corner, you had your sink and cooker and there was a recess where your bed was.

‘There was an absolutely disgusting outside toilet.’

They later moved to East Kilbride, where Lorraine was thrilled there was a bath, a phone and a bedroom for her. She said: ‘People these days would be horrified and think it Dickensian, but I could not have had a better childhood.’

Lorraine, 59, and Esther, 51, are both proudly self-made women who have raised themselves up from humble beginnings to become successful women of substance (pictured: Esther McVey in her early days)

Esther’s parents, Jimmy and Barbara, were unmarried and aged 22 and 18, respectively, when she was born. They put her in a Barnardo’s home in Liverpool because they couldn’t cope.

After four-and-a-half years, by which time Jimmy had started a building business and bought a small home, they brought her back to live with them.

Esther said: ‘They visited me in the home. They always wanted me back.’

In her later childhood, there was enough money for ballet lessons and for Esther to attend the fee-paying Belvedere School, where she ended up as head girl.

But her family kept her feet on the ground: her chores included polishing shoes and peeling potatoes.

After school, she studied law at Queen Mary University of London. She then completed an MA in radio journalism at City University London.


Pictured: Lorraine Kelly attending the TRIC Awards, March 12

Both women have drive and ambition — and both made it in the cut-throat world of television.

Lorraine turned down a place at university to work for a local newspaper. From there, she landed a job as a BBC Scotland researcher and then as a TV-am reporter in Scotland in 1983.

Her broadcasting in the wake of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing led to her being asked to go to London and join the main show. She said: ‘It’s quite difficult to live with the fact that dreadful, horrendous terrorist atrocity resulted in my getting one of the best jobs ever.’

Lorraine was a chief presenter on Good Morning Britain from 1990 and on the team that launched GMTV in 1993. By 2010, she was a standalone item. In 2012, she was awarded an OBE for services to charity and the Armed Forces.

Esther’s TV career is rather less impressive. She got her big break after her father filmed her doing a three-minute demo tape about Liverpool and was hired to present a summer slot on Children’s BBC in 1991. She presented reports on GMTV from 1993 and, in 1996, worked on How Do They Do That?

From there, she had jobs presenting on The Heaven And Earth Show and Channel 5’s Night Fever, before getting her big break — covering for Fiona Phillips in 1999.

In 2000, she made her last mainstream television series, Shopping City. She then went into business, followed by politics.


Each of them has overcome bumps in the road. In 2013, Esther, MP for Tatton, was formally reprimanded for using House of Commons stationery and postage while electioneering for the Tories. Five years later, more seriously, the National Audit Office reported that she had misled Parliament over the Universal Credit Scheme, claming the NAO said it ought to be rolled out faster, when actually the report said it should be paused.

She apologised to the House and faced calls to resign (which she did four months later, over Brexit).

She has been Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip and Minister for Employment. She says: ‘I want to be leader because I believe in the timeless values of Conservatism.’

Esther McVey speaks at an event to launch her leadership bid for Conservative Party Leader in Central London, June 10, 2019

In March this year, Lorraine was embroiled in a row over a £1.2 million tax bill — which she won, after a judge accepted that ‘Lorraine Kelly’ as seen on TV is not actually her, but a television persona.

Kelly was hit with a huge National Insurance and income tax bill in 2016 after HMRC claimed she was an ITV employee, not a freelancer.

Judge Jennifer Dean ruled the relationship Lorraine had with ITV ‘was a contract for services and not that of employer and employee’.

She said: ‘We did not accept that Ms Kelly simply appeared as herself — we were satisfied that Ms Kelly presents a persona of herself, she presents herself as a brand and that is the brand ITV sought when engaging her. All parts of the show are a performance, the act being to perform the role of a friendly, chatty and fun personality.’


Lorraine, easily. She is said to be worth at least £6 million and is under contract with ITV, which pays her £800,000 a year. She has had a long-term relationship with the beauty brand Dove and, since 2015, has been fronting homeware and clothes ranges for retailer JD Williams, which may bring in a further £200,000 a year.

For the past three years, she has also been the face of furniture and furnishings retailer Wayfair.

Not to mention the ‘Lorraine’ brand — she has released three fitness DVDs, a baby and toddler cookbook, a guide to Scotland, an autobiography and a beauty book.

Her most recent accounts show her firm has total assets of £3 million, with £2.3 million cash in the bank. It paid £500,000 in dividends and its directors are Lorraine and her husband, Steven Smith. By comparison, Esther’s account books are not quite so rosy.

Between TV and politics, she set up in business with a firm, Making It, offering training advice. In 2014, it was £56,000 in the red and its final accounts before it closed down show debts of £15,000.

During this time, she did an MSc at Liverpool John Moores University and was on the board of her father’s demolition and construction firm.

She has a house in Liverpool’s West Kirby and also shares a flat in London with her fiance, MP Philip Davies. Her MP’s salary is £79,468. 


Here, the women have contrasting fortunes. Lorraine met Steve, a cameraman, on TV-am, 30 years ago and they married in 1992.

Daughter Rosie was born in 1994 and now lives in Singapore, where she works for a charity.

For years, Lorraine and Steve lived apart during the week, with Lorraine staying in London while her husband resided in Dundee with their daughter. Last year, the couple sold Lorraine’s £1.5 million pied-a-terre in Central London and their £845,000 seven-bedroom house in Broughty Ferry, outside Dundee, to move to an idyllic riverside house in Buckinghamshire.

The home, near Bourne End, has a separate guest house and mooring.

Lorraine said: ‘Steve and I want to be together a bit more. For years, I’ve been travelling up and down from our home in Dundee to London to do my show, and not only has it been exhausting, we’ve really missed each other.

‘It’s really about downsizing. The house was too big for just two people, and now is a really good time for us to be living close to London.’ They are also within a stone’s throw of the Clooneys, Theresa May and Russell Brand.

Esther, meanwhile, was one half of a media power couple with fellow Liverpudlian Mal Young, a producer who, at the time, was head of drama at the BBC.

They did a cover for Hello! magazine in 1999, but split the following year.

She moved on to a romance with Tory MP Ed Vaizey. It is reported that he was so besotted that he repeatedly asked Esther to marry him during their year-long courtship.

But then, around 2011 she met Philip Davies, a divorced Tory MP. They’ve been dating for the past four years. She has said: ‘I always knew they [her previous partners] weren’t the right one and, when I met Phil, I knew that he was.’

She added: ‘I was attracted to his cracking sense of humour. He makes me laugh so much. And he is the most supportive man I have ever met. He’s been there for me in good times and bad.’

On her decision not to have children, Esther said: ‘I believe in choice. And I always knew if I had a kid, I would want to give that little person all my time, like my mother did for me, taking me to sports events, ballet lessons, trampolining and all that.

‘I would have given up whatever I was doing to be a full-time mum.’ 


Lorraine insists she looks better now than she did in her 30s — and few would disagree. She credits Zumba classes, plus good genes, and decries the use of Botox as her ‘pet hate in the world’.

The low-maintenance star barely wears jewellery and eschews designer dresses, though her hair is cut and coloured at the leading Jo Hansford salon.

One other indulgence is exotic travel, with recent holidays to Bali, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Esther, meanwhile, is famous for having the best hair in Westminster. During a row with Chancellor Philip Hammond last year over claims of a £2 billion black hole in the welfare budget, one Treasury source sniped that ‘the only thing she knows how to do well is a blow-dry’.

Esther sees a mobile hairdresser at her Cheshire constituency home once every three months for highlights, and dries and styles it herself.

And, like Lorraine, she feels at her peak right now, saying: ‘I have become more confident with age.’

Esther (my ex-client) is a showbiz pariah now 

By Jon Roseman, ex-showbusiness agent  

Esther McVey MP gives keynote speech at Bruges Group meeting, June 10

That look on Lorraine Kelly’s face when Piers Morgan asked her this week if she remembered working with Esther McVey was priceless.

Within minutes, social media was ablaze with speculation that the sainted Lorraine hadn’t liked her former colleague and current Tory leadership candidate.

Let me set the record straight. The truth is few people at GMTV back in the Nineties liked Esther McVey, then a presenter who’d appeared on children’s TV.

She was widely perceived as the girl who took someone else’s job from under their nose. Worse than that, she exuded the same lack of warmth that, to me, has characterised her political career. Esther had no empathy.

I should know. In the Nineties, I was the agent for nearly three-quarters of the talent at GMTV, including Esther. Establishing any real relationship with her, though, was difficult — the emotional coolness you saw on screen was the same in real life.

This all came to the fore when it was announced GMTV co-host Fiona Phillips was about to take six months’ maternity leave.

Everybody expected the editor of the breakfast show, the late Peter McHugh, would promote Penny Smith — who, at the time, presented the hour-long slot from 6am — on to the sofa with Eamonn Holmes for the main event, a two-hour show that kicked off at 7am.

But, 72 hours before Penny was due to start, Peter called me. He’d changed his mind and instead wanted Esther. In his eyes, she was a safer pair of hands.

Penny was a maverick presenter. You could never predict what she was going to say and her sense of humour was decidedly quirky. That, of course, was what viewers loved about her, but it made the top brass nervous. And McHugh didn’t think he could risk too many of her off-script antics.

I thought he was wrong, and told him so. Penny was also one of my clients and, by coincidence, I was having dinner with her that evening. It was the most horrible dinner of my professional career.

Within minutes, social media was ablaze with speculation that the sainted Lorraine hadn’t liked her former colleague and current Tory leadership candidate

When I broke the bad news, there were tears. Penny is resilient and a professional, but she couldn’t disguise how upset and betrayed she felt. She was also popular around the studios.

Everyone loved her and, when she wasn’t sitting beside Eamonn on Monday morning, there was a lot of muttering backstage.

So, knowing what I do, I was amazed to now read that Esther seemingly attributes any bad blood between her and Lorraine Kelly to jealousy over that bad business — as if Lorraine had ever wanted to be Fiona’s stand-in. That’s plain ridiculous.

Lorraine had fronted her own morning show for years. She was a far bigger star than Esther, and at least on a par with Eamonn.

Esther knows that perfectly well. She also knows it was Penny she pipped to the sofa at the last minute. To say anything else, in my view, is sheer fabrication.

But Esther’s stint in the limelight was not a happy one. A disgruntled McHugh soon called me to confide that all his audience polls and focus groups showed that viewers didn’t like Esther.

He blamed her Scouse accent: many people said they found it hard to understand. Maybe he was right, but I don’t recall it did Cilla any harm.

The problem wasn’t the voice, it was the tone behind it. Esther had none of that cheeky warmth we associate with Liverpudlians.

But I’d already guessed that the public hadn’t taken to Esther — after three months, I hadn’t received a single job offer for her following her sudden rise to be Eamonn’s co-star. TV exposure such as that usually generates a flood of calls.

Esther couldn’t understand it. She and her boyfriend at the time, BBC producer Mal Young, insisted that I handle her career: all myself, in person.

But the phone still didn’t ring. I’m not a miracle worker.

These days, there’s a perception the MP for Tatton looks down her nose at her ‘showbiz years’. Only she will know if that’s true.

What I can say with certainty is that she has fallen out with several former colleagues — not least because of her conservative positions on gay marriage and other LGBT causes.

Homophobia is never tolerated in the entertainment business. A significant number of television celebrities are gay or lesbian, as are some of the most important interviewees.

By voting against gay marriage, Esther has made herself a pariah among her old colleagues. Though it must be said: they didn’t really like her to start with.

  • Jon Roseman is a former showbusiness agent and author of the memoir From Here To . . . Obscurity.

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