As its coming up to the Selection meeting for Stoke Central I thought that I would offer my advice on anyone on those candidates who will be facing the experience.
I have been interviewed a few times and I have never been successful at a parliamentary level although I have won a few meetings to become a candidate at local government level.
Apart from the early 80s when I was nominated to fight Hartshill in the winter of 81 my first experience was 2 years before at the age of 24 when I attended a selection conference at Joiners Square to fight Staffordshire East as the Euro seat at the time. It was a snowy day when I turned up. I was extremely nervous and made a terrible choice of subject it that it was a lecture on the coming power of computers. I think I nicked most of the content from a “Times” editorial. I remember using the phrase “using IT as a totem” at some part of the proceeding. The paper was shaking as a struggled to control me nerves. The occasion was memorable in that one of the other candidates was Robert Maxwell who was hoping to get the nomination on the basis that he had served in the North Staffordshire Regiment during the war. I can recall that he was solicitous. We both lost and the eventual winner was a Birmingham lawyer named Tracey who in turn lost out in the election to the Gloucestershire based Tory Moreland who was part of the family that bought us “England’s Glory” matches in the election the following June.
On a more positive side I did answer the questions tolerable well. My only other story about Maxwell was that some years later a friend of mine who was in the same Labour Party branch in Oxford- Headington told me that there was a branch raffle where the tradition was to give the bottle of liebfraumilch back to the branch if you had the winning ticket. That was until Robert Maxwell won and he kept the bottle of plonk. I guess people should have cottoned on then.
By 1985 I had been a Stoke Councillor for a few years and I thought that I would try again. I applied for Ludlow mainly because a friend of my fathers had pushed for me to be interviewed by the panel. It was a completely unwinable seat and I travelled down to South Shropshire one November Sunday in the company of my good friend the much missed John McCready a Fenton Councillor.
It was an agreeable trip down to an agreeable town and concluded with an agreeable selection meeting. I lost to an unemployed zookeeper from Manchester. He wore a Star of David and told me that he had fought in the Israeli Army in the Yom Kippur War in 73. Some time later I found out that he was later charged with benefit fraud after coming 3 in the subsequent General Election.
The Staffs Moorlands selection and a meeting in Leek shortly followed this. Vera Ivers eventually won the candidature a well-deserved winner who was a popular Councillor. I tried 4 years later in 1990. The selection meeting was held the night that Geoffrey Howe demolished Thatcher with his resignation speech likening her to a captain who had broken all the bats. It followed the earlier resignation of Nigel Lawson and this occurrence did lead me to quip that “to lose one senior minister was a misfortune to lose two looks like carelessness”. That night I lost to a very strange man a Councillor from Norton called Sharman who later was convicted of embezzling funds from a Leek based homeless charity.
Shortly afterwards I was also beaten by a sitting Stoke Councillor Terry Crowe in Cheadle
I also tried in South Worcestershire the following month December 1990 and enduring a snowy drive down the M5 to Pershore where the meeting was held. I made the mistake as I was staying in the town overnight of having a drink on an empty stomach. I did not do very well on the questions one on the nature of the relationship between inflation and employment- the Phillips Curve- left me completely clueless. I remember that one particularly spotty faced Herbert who was sitting in the front row asked that question. I was transfixed and unable to respond.
If any candidates or their supporters are reading this the only two bits of advice I can offer is that never drink on an empty stomach and the best man does not necessarily win