|Farewell, Sir David
14 Sep 2014
Last Thursday, I went to Odiham for the funeral of my predecessor, Sir David Mitchell. He represented Basingstoke and then North West Hampshire in the House of Commons from 1964 until his retirement in 1997, There was a moving tribute to him at the well-attended service by his son Andrew, also an MP. As the Mitchells are a family of vintners, we were well looked after at the reception afterwards
When I was adopted as his successor in 1995, David could not have been kinder in familiarising me with the political and social landscape in the county. As a migrant from London, his induction programme was invaluable.
We went round the various branches of the Conservative Association, at which he would introduce me with the following anecdote. “A Parochial Church Council in Hampshire was having difficulty in choosing a new vicar. The candidates were either too young or too old, too high or too low. In desperation to secure an outcome, the Bishop came to the next meeting. He opened the meeting with a prayer. ’O Lord Almighty , visit unto this Parochial Church Council the succour they so clearly deserve.’”
At which point David would turn round and point at his political successor “And this, Ladies and Gentlemen” is the sucker you so clearly deserve!” It was done, as those who knew David will appreciate, with humour and affection.
After listening to this introduction at about half a dozen meetings of the party faithful, I decided the time had come to retaliate with an anecdote of my one. I replied as follows. “A 19th century circus proprietor was touring the country with his show, at which the most popular attraction was the human cannon ball. When it reached Hampshire, there was an unfortunate mishap. Too much explosive was inserted into the cannon, and the human cannon ball was propelled to eternity. When informed of this disaster, the proprietor commented. “How very sad. We will never find a man of the same calibre.”
At which point, I would turn round and point at my predecessor and say “Ladies and gentleman, you will never find a man of the same calibre”
And now the wheel has tuned full circle; I go round introducing my political successor as Conservative candidate, the excellent Kit Malthouse, to the Party Faithful. Do we do the same double act? No; our party members are perceptive folk. They would say we’ve heard those jokes before.