A former MP for Chippenham has shed light on his choice words on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - and given his backing to current MP Michelle Donelan.

Richard Needham’s career, which took him from Chippenham to Belfast in his roles as MP and minister for Northern Ireland, has been captured in his new memoirs.

Juggling the two roles was a challenge at times, and Mr Needham frequently started his days in England with a customary drop to the ground, to check beneath his car before driving.

When elected for Chippenham in 1979, he took over what had been a Liberal seat, in a period of history a far cry from the sea of blue the county now swims in. “I was always on the left of the Tory party,” he said.

“The fact there were about four of us in the county was chance, I think. Chippenham had been a marginal Liberal seat, it had a majority of just under 1,800. The villages were always Tory but the towns, like Calne and Chippenham, they were very Liberal.”

Known at the time as one of the Wiltshire Wets he fought for support for the Harris bacon factory in Calne, that eventually did close. “One of the most terrifying moments I had was when I called for an adjournment in Parliament about the closure of the Harris bacon factory,” he said.

“These things usually take place at the end of the day, and there’s usually only a few people there.

"I was making a case to get government support for Harris bacon factory. and then who rolls up, but the Prime Minister and four of her cabinet members. I couldn’t believe it, It was one of the most nerve wracking moments of my life!”

He is also is well known for an embarrassing call intercepted in 1990. The Sunday Times had reported that Needham phoned his wife from his official car and said: ″I wish that cow would resign.″

Mrs Thatcher did accept an apology from Mr Needham. “Yes, I did call her a cow,” he said. “It was a long time ago, but yes, it did hit newspaper headlines. I respected her, but we had very different opinions on politics.

“But we worked closely, especially when I was minister for Northern Ireland. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it and thrived on it. I used to fly to Northern Ireland from Lyneham on a Monday morning, then would fly back again on Thursday night or Friday morning, and would have Saturday going round Chippenham and focusing on local issues. Which of course were vitally important, the landscape of Wiltshire had been changing.”

He had hoped to rebuild Belfast and Derry and not only build back buildings, but build back morale.

Michelle Donelan

The current parliament representative for Chippenham has a similar balance to Mr Needham, with her role as MP as well as Universities Minister.

“I’m a big fan, she’s Irish you see!,” he said. “I think she has she done incredibly well, if you look at her background and her work throughout the years. She’s really made her way in the world very quickly. She has ended up in a very important job.”

One Man Two Worlds, not only looks back on his career, where commerce and politics were interwoven, but raises questions on the future of politics and work.

The decline of industry in Wiltshire and beyond, such as in Chippenham and Calne, is “a huge disappointment” he said, but he is hopeful that new industries peppered along the M4 can still help the region recover.