And Clare’s name was squarely in the frame.‘For more than two years before it broke, I would come out of my house and there would be somebody in a bush trying to take a photograph,’ she says.
‘Or I’d be walking down the street and be aware there was somebody in a van watching me.
Even today she can’t believe the audacity of it all. She had chatted as they sat down to lunch or mingled with guests at cocktail parties and dinners. I will always be “that” woman, the mistress who wasn’t.’Seventeen years ago, Downing Street caterer Clare was falsely accused of having an affair with the then Prime Minister. She would often stay on alone after functions and leave late.
She had come to regard one of them, at least, as a friend. He couldn’t afford for it to come tumbling out, so when my name was put in the frame, I guess it was quite convenient.‘For a long time, I thought if I didn’t talk about this then it would go away. Talk of his infidelity had been bubbling in the cauldron of Westminster gossip since his days as Chancellor and before. People put two and two together and, in 1993, two publications put the resultant miscalculation into print.
I would turn up at clients and workmen would shout, “There’s that tart.
Because, last Friday, after much soul-searching, Clare closed the door to her shop in Primrose Hill for the last time.‘Everywhere Lord Walker went he kept me on for catering, but the department he’d been in before would also use me.In that way, I’ve cooked for every Whitehall department except for the Mo D,’ says Clare.In some ways, it was worse before the story broke, though I wouldn’t have said that at the time.‘I cooked for John and Edwina when they were having their affair. The rumours he’d had an affair really started then because he was more high profile.‘If he was entertaining, his office would ring and say, “It’s going to be a lunch for 20, choose the wines and come up with the menu.” I got to know John well. If we were doing a late cocktail party, I’d tell my staff to go and I’d clear up.That’s when you’d get a chance to have a bit of a chat with the client.‘Sometimes John would help me dry the dishes. Norma was in Huntingdon and he was there by himself. I saw all these chancellors and their wives go through it.‘We’d do lunch for Lord Walker, then we might have a cocktail party for Energy Secretary John Wakeham, and a private dinner for Lord Walker at his home.‘The business was going really well and I bought a house in Hampstead in North London.