A 1980s QUIZ champ has backed Carol Vorderman’s £1M pay demand – and lifted the lid on how she was fighting for a starkly different deal more than 20 years ago.

Carol, 47, caused a sensation this week by quitting Countdown, the iconic words and numbers quiz she has graced in nearly 5,000 episodes since it began in 1982.

This followed the departure of co-host Des O’Connor and revelations that bosses had offered her up to 90 per cent less than her current deal, believed to be worth £1M a year.

But former Hyndburn Labour councillor Tim O’Kane, who appeared on the quiz in 1985, believes she is worth every penny.

He remembers Carol, who is no stranger to the East Lancashire area, fondly from his time there.

At that time maths whizz Carol managed the numbers game, with fellow presenter Cathy Hytner having the considerably less taxing job of putting up the letters.

Mr O’Kane, of Charles Street, Clayton-le-Moors, recalls the tensions over their respective roles.

He claimed: "At that time late host Richard Whiteley was on £800 for every Countdown show, Carol Vorderman was getting £500 and Cathy was getting £300.

"There was a pay parity thing going on and straight after that they ditched Cathy and gave Carol the whole £800.

"I spent a fair amount of time there because I won six times back in 1985 and I got to know them fairly well."

He added: "It’s sad because she’s become an iconic figure on the show. I think it’s the longest continuously running game show in the world and I think she’s been hard done by.

"A million pounds seems a lot of money for 250 shows but you have to consider what she could have been making from her other commitments."

Mr O’Kane is a veteran of several TV shows and he will be appearing again on our screens next Friday on BBC2’s new 6pm daily quiz vehicle, Battle of the Brains.

He can’t give much away yet, but has warned viewers to expect some floundering over tough questions.

He added: "When I introduce myself I say I’m from Clayton-le-Moors with an s.’’ – a reference to Clayton Conservative Club mis-spelling the name earlier this year.


  • Parentage: Born in Bedford to a Dutch father and Welsh mother. Grew up in Rhyl.
  • Countdown double acts: Was Richard Whiteley’s "Vord at the Board’’ for 23 years, then did subsequent co-hosting stints with Des Lynam and Des O’Connor, following Whiteley’s death in June 2005.
  • Education: Read engineering at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and, like fellow Cambridge graduate Whiteley, achieved a third-class degree.
  • TV: Has appeared on Carol Vorderman’s Big Brain Game, Tomorrow’s World, World Chess Championship, Gameshow Marathon, Have I Got News For You and The Friday Night Project
  • And another thing: Upon receiving her MBE, she said: "These are two consonants and a vowel I am very proud of."