This was my Isle of Thanet Gazette column, published 8/05/2015 that gave rise to the following on this week’s letter page. As I said on twitter – thanks for all the amusing response! – I love the idea that I should pay for my sins by attending a council meeting…. Punishment indeed!!! 🙂
The offending piece:
“They are homophobes; they are sexist.”
“They are self-opinionated and won’t take criticism.”
“They’ve shown how incompetent and secretive they are.”
“They play games.”
By the time you are reading this, we will know which party’s representatives have landed in Thanet, and whichever one it is, the chances are it will have been described as one of the above. The most enjoyable part of interviewing the various candidates for the seats of South and North Thanet in the lead-up to the general elections, was hearing the rants that I wasn’t allowed to print. Above is the short version. I have acres of tape on what is fundamentally wrong with Labour, the Conservatives, the dreaded UKIP, the Lib Dems (actually nobody took them seriously enough to be rude) and the Greens (ditto).
When we got down to analysing individuals, most of my interviewees were keen to protest that they weren’t in the business of knocking their rivals, but did manage to shyly reveal:
“He’s not going to do anything for the area.”
“He’s not going to trot around dealing with people’s problems.”
“He’s a bit like the temple in Cambodia with four faces”
“I’m a different breed of politician from him. I’m not here to tell lies.”
“He’s just using it as a stepping stone up his own vanity ladder.”
“You can’t trust him.”
So welcome whoever made it through. You sound thoroughly delightful and I’m sure we’ll get on like a house on fire. One thing is for sure – it will indeed be a HE in South Thanet. Our current incumbent at the time of writing, Laura Sandys, is sadly not standing for re-election. I can honestly say I have never heard her say a bad word about anyone.
I have had various conversations with Laura over the last five years: as a journalist seeking her views, at local gatherings various, and as a constituent to her MP. Ms Sandys was unfailingly smiley, concerned, committed and above all, moderate. Even my most left-wing friends had little negative to say apart from the obvious – that she was a Tory. In traditionally right-wing circles, hallowed was her name. When she first came on the scene, the criticism levelled at her most frequently was a puzzled: “She seems a bit too nice.” Eventually we realised she actually was nice. Very! She also worked like a Trojan, was passionate about her causes, would turn out to the opening of an envelope even when it was cold, dreary and pouring with rain – make-up-less, hair wet and still managing to look as if she were privileged to attend – and always seemed to be one of those rare creatures: the politician who is in it to try to make the world a better place, not for their own self-glory. I know I am not the only one who would have voted her back in, in a heartbeat, whichever party she was standing for. (Except UKIP, obviously. But the good lady is far too intelligent for that!). Good luck with whatever you do next, Laura! I doubt Thanet will see your like again.
ALSO BY THE TIME you are reading this, I will be propping my eyes open with matchsticks, having flown back from a week working in France (see www.chez-castillon.com) in time to cast my vote and pitch up at the Winter Gardens for the count. It’s a long sleepless night, filled with politicians and council officials, news bulletins and anxiety, and not even an open bar. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’ll have seen who we’ve got and be suitably relieved or disappointed or in deep despair .
Whichever of the three, my message for the new chap is this: I hope you’ll do a bit more for Thanet than they said you would…