Somewhere in the archives of the Ealing Gazette are earlier versions of the pictures that sometimes adorn the Andover Advertiser – namely those of the local Member of Parliament performing his civic duties. For 23 years, the then Member for Ealing Acton sought to communicate with whose he represented through the medium of the local paper.
If and when my biographer seeks to chronicle my career, he will notice some important differences between the sets of pictures in the two constituencies I have had the honour to represent.
He will put aside the superficial ones; the Ealing Gazette credits me with more hair; with spectacles with at the time fashionable Buddy Holly-type black frames; and trousers with a narrower waist.
He will notice some more strategic differences. In order to capture the eye, not so much of the reader but of the Editor of the local paper, the MP for Ealing Acton was to be found in a number of unlikely, sometimes undignified – nay tabloid - poses. For good reason; in Ealing Acton, the enemy were hot on my heels. My majority, the difference between a return ticket to the House of Commons and a one-way ticket to the local JobCentre, was on one occasion 808. To ensure the continuing support of the voters of Ealing Acton, I sought to impress them with my energy by regular and dramatic appearances in their local paper. (My majority in NW Hants, due to the hard work of my local association, has permitted a slackening of pace.)
Most of the pictures in the Ealing Gazette will hopefully never see the light of day again. One is a picture of me in a night club with Miss World on my knee. Miss World is looking alarmed, not because of me but because, for reasons which I cannot now recall, she had a boa-constrictor wrapped round her, making her already narrow waist yet narrower. The Editor had little hesitation in putting this photograph in his paper and, on seeing it, Lady Young rightly enquired whether my commitment to my job entailed this sort of sacrifice. (I have googled “Sir George Young Miss World Boa-constrictor” to confirm that this picture is not readily available. If you do find it, the police may come and seize your computer.)
The point of this article is to apologise that old habits die hard. Visiting Hurstbourne Tarrant Summer fete last week-end, I saw the Head sitting on a stool, his head and hands in the stocks, raising money by inviting his pupils and their parents to throw a wet sponge at him. This was something I would do 20 years ago in Ealing Acton. At a time when Mrs Thatcher was at the height of her unpopularity, parents, pupils and teachers queued up to pay £1 to hurl three sponges at a member of her administration. I raised funds for a BBC Acorn Computer (remember them?) in an hour. My successor as MP for that school has complained to me that the school has turned this into a tradition, and every June he endures ritual humiliation.
As I say, old habits die hard. The evidence is in this week's local paper.