The post was an important one – heading the board that would decide punishments for MPs found to have committed some of the worst abuses of the expenses system unearthed by The Daily Telegraph in spring.
The Conservative leadership that proposed the former minister were confident that in Mr Curry they had a chairman who “got it”. Here was someone who could demonstrate to the public that MPs would no longer be allowed to use their allowances to fund a luxurious lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense.
After all, his own claims were a relatively modest £9,000 a year on a picturesque cottage in Yorkshire.
Yet little did they suspect that the claims were based on such a questionable arrangement that he would be forced to resign from the post just weeks after taking it up.
Behind the claims lay a classic tale of a wife scorned.
Mr Curry and his wife of 30 years, Anne, a French sculptor, had separated in 2004 after she became aware that her husband was having a long-standing affair with a local headmistress, Cherry Edwards.
Such was the depth of the relationship that Mrs Edwards had even got a job in London in order to be near Mr Curry during the week, returning to her husband in the North at the weekends.
The break-up was swift and bitter. Mr Curry was ordered to leave the marital home, a large, detached farmhouse in Saffron Waldon, Essex, where his wife has her studio.
He then announced that he was standing down from his post as a shadow local government minister, for “family reasons”.
Before their split, the couple, who have a son and twin daughters, had enjoyed an enviable lifestyle.
As well as the Essex home, Mrs Curry owned an elegant town house in Kennington, south London, close enough to Parliament for her husband to stay overnight after late votes at Westminster.
They also had a holiday villa in Bassin d’Arcachon, south-west France, as well as a constituency cottage in the Yorkshire Dales which the Currys had purchased when he became an MP in 1987. But Mrs Curry is understood to have suspected that the MP had been using both the cottage and the Kennington house for his trysts with Mrs Edwards, so she banned him from staying at the London property – his name was taken off the electoral roll in 2005 – and it was let to tenants shortly afterwards.
Mr Curry then began renting a flat in a quiet mews in Westminster from Sir Kenneth Carlisle, a former Conservative MP. The £175 cost of hiring a van to move his personal items from Essex to London went on his expenses. He also charged the taxpayer to kit out the new flat with items including John Lewis pillows and a bedspread, a kettle and even new keys.
The cost to the taxpayer of the split and his new living arrangements was not inconsequential – he paid Sir Kenneth £1,300 a month in rent, substantially more than the £250 he would later claim for the mortgage interest on his constituency second home.
After a year apart, and with Mrs Edwards having returned to her husband in Lincolnshire, the Currys were reconciled.
But as a condition of taking him back, the MP’s wife is understood to have insisted that he never again spend the night in either the Yorkshire cottage or the Kennington town house.
Again, the taxpayer was the loser from the arrangement. Unable to stay overnight in London, Mr Curry began claiming the cost of commuting by train from Saffron Walden to Westminster three to four days a week.
The Yorkshire property remained unoccupied, with Mr Curry popping in from time to time to check everything was in working order, and a close neighbour keeping an eye on it the rest of the time.
He continued to claim for costs including gardening, cleaning, decorating, maintenance, council tax and, until it was paid off in 2007, the mortgage interest.
The MP’s expenses records show that his claims for cleaning the cottage covered a period – November 2007 to June 2008 – during which he told The Daily Telegraph yesterday the property was “uninhabitable” due to building work.
When visiting his constituency, Mr Curry made it his habit to drive to and from Yorkshire in a single day every three weeks or so, charging the mileage to his expenses.
Voters there noticed that his first surgeries began late morning. On those occasions when he could not avoid staying overnight, he checked into the Skipton Travelodge, for which he picked up the £35 to £49-a-night bills himself.
Neighbours told The Telegraph that they never saw the MP in the village in the evenings.
And some local Conservatives are also understood to have been disappointed at his failure to spend more time in the constituency.
On a typical weekend two weeks ago, The Telegraph observed as he checked into the Travelodge on a Thursday evening, before driving back to Essex the following afternoon after his surgeries. After spending Saturday in Essex, he returned to Yorkshire on Sunday for the local Remembrance Sunday services, then headed back to his family home by car the same day.
This coming weekend, local sources disclosed that he had been due to attend an evening event in the constituency on Sunday, but cancelled on Wednesday saying that he had to attend a family funeral in France.
As chairman of the standards committee, Mr Curry has already overseen two inquiries: one into the case of Tony McNulty, the former minister who allowed his parents to live for free in his taxpayer-funded second home, and Alan Duncan, the shadow prisons minister, whose claims for mortgage interest were found to have been within the rules.
In an interview to mark his appointment with Parliament’s in-house journal, House magazine, he made clear his attitude to the expenses scandal.
“Quite a number of colleagues have congratulated me with the noun ‘chalice’ accompanied by the conventional adjective,” he said.
“This is Parliament doing the toughest thing there is. We’re subjecting people to judgment by their peers. It wouldn’t bother me if this job makes me unpopular but I don’t think it will – the committee is very widely respected.
“The outside world will inevitably say ‘you’ve let them off too easily’, but there’s no point getting twitchy.
“If the Third World War broke out tomorrow and the second coming took place at the Dome, then The Telegraph would still lead on expenses.”