I was accosted in Andover a few days ago by a constituent who said how much he enjoyed reading my column in the local paper. I was about to tell him that I hadn’t written one for nearly two years, but caught myself in time. If I can be credited with the authorship of readable material without writing anything, why spoil things? Not only could I save myself the trouble of writing a column, but, if I did so, it might not live up to his expectations. So I thanked him for the compliment.
For the past two years, readers of the Advertiser have been spared my fortnightly columns. They stopped on my appointment as Chief Whip. Followers of the House of Cards will know that Chief Whips do not do anything so frivolous as write for the local paper, but instead plot the downfall of their rivals and push people off the top of tall buildings. So the column was suspended and the traditional radio silence of the Chief Whip maintained. I could not possibly have commented.
In the meantime, my parliamentary colleagues from Romsey and Devizes have more than compensated with some refreshing columns of their own, keeping readers informed about what is happening locally and at Westminster. As Chief Whip, I read them to see if there was any trace of unacceptable independence of thought which might destabilise the Government. None was detected.
And so the silence might have continued, had not the Editor written to me on my resignation as Chief Whip last month, suggesting that the column might be disinterred. Which it might be.
Much has happened since I last wrote, including my intention to retire at the next election. This has had a galvanising effect on my local party. Those hoping to inherit the seat have attended local party functions; bought raffle tickets; canvassed in the local elections; run committee rooms on the day and carried out local surveys in Andover High St. An infusion of young blood swept through the North West Hampshire Conservatives as over a hundred applicants unblocked some of our arteries.
The excellent Kit Malthouse, whose picture I was pleased to see in the paper on August 1st, won the final selection, chaired by my former Parliamentary colleague Matthew Parris and his name will be on the ballot paper on May 7th 2015.
Following all this activity, the advice from the Party’s agent was emphatic. “George, you should retire more often”