Thursday, 7 February 2013

Advice for Parliamentary Hopefuls!

An article of special interest for any Parliamentary hopefuls!

The village pictured above is a lovely but not untypical example of the hundreds of villages and hamlets which make up the Tonbridge & Malling Parliamentary constituency. It nestles beneath the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is called Trottiscliffe. And it's dangerous!
Why is it dangerous?  Because, along with many of its neighbours, the pronunciation of its name lays a vicious trap which has caught-out hundreds of newcomers, grockles, interlopers, estate agents, delivery drivers - and, I suspect, soon to be Parliamentary hopefuls.
Later this year Tonbridge & Malling will commence the procedure to select a new candidate. Due to longevity and outstanding service of our incumbent Member, Sir John Stanley, there has not been a Parliamentary selection for over 40 years. Sir John was selected in 1972 and has served the constituency ever since. Viewed now as one of the Grey Beards, Sir John was once Margaret Thatcher's PPS and for much of the 1980s and early 1990s he was a Minister of State for inter alia Armed Forces, Housing and Northern Ireland.  My office still has the steel plated bomb and bullet proof front door as a memento of his time in Ulster! The sale of council homes to sitting tenants (one of the outstanding policies of the Thatcher governments and perhaps the single greatest enabler of social mobility and popular capitalism) was Sir John's idea, and the Bill bears his name as he piloted it through Parliament as Minister of State.   
The prospect of selecting a new candidate is causing great excitement, both amongst the members and from those on the Parliamentary List, who are salivating at the opportunity to represent one of the UKs most beautiful constituencies (see below) with its 18,000 majority. We have a large, wealthy and vibrant Association, a full time Agent and hold 54 of the 56 council seats in the constituency. And it's just 50 minutes from London!
The brazen chutzpah of candidates never ceases to amaze me. Sir John announced his retirement at last year's Association AGM. I was not there as I had to attend to Tunbridge Wells AGM on the same night. Within five minutes (literally) of Sir John's announcement I received a text message from a Parliamentary hopeful from Leicestershire (who I had never heard of, let alone met) offering to 'pop down' and help with our by-election.  I have no idea how he heard the news, tracked me down and obtained my private number.  Perhaps these people walk around with dossiers full of names and numbers of agents and chairmen, just in case an incumbent member should be knocked down by a bus.
Anyway, I digress. The beauty parade has already begun. One hopeful appears to have moved her ageing mother into a rented house in the constituency, who is now busy signing up friends and neighbours at £25 a time (kerr-ching!). Another is here so often I am going to suggest the County Council name the southerly section of the A20 after him.  Another must have a never ending group of friends in the area, as every time we have a campaign day he just happens to be in Kent visiting friends and is able to drop-by to help.  You have to admire their tenacity.
No doubt when the selection meetings commence they will all claim local knowledge and local roots. Which brings me nicely back to the village I wrote about at the top of this blog. I am going to arrange for a member of the selection panel to hold up a picture of the village sign and ask "how do you pronounce the name of this village?" then sit back and enjoy the look of horror.  For whilst Ordinance Survey (and the village signs) spell it Trottiscliffe, locally it's written Trosley and pronounced Trozli (see HERE)
But if you survive the Trottiscliffe, Trosley or Trozli test, there are plenty more.
How about Wrotham (pronounced Ru-tam), Ightham (Ite Ham), Crouch (Croosh) and Shipbourne (Shibbun).  And then there's the hamlet of Basted. You would think the wealthy inhabitants of this small rural community built around a water mill would welcome the opportunity to say they live a a place named Basted (as in basted the turkey). But no! Pull over your car and ask a tweed-suited Telegraph carrying local if they know where Basted Mill is they will shout "Bastard" at you - pleased at scoring a  double-whammy; proving with one word that you're an interloper and also enjoying the look of shock on your face as you wonder why a Mrs Marple look-a-like appears to be swearing at you for no reason.
Even the constituency name has its pitfalls.  Tonbridge is pronounced TUNbridge never TONbridge and Malling as in 'the dog is mauling a bone'. Get either wrong and you'll be back on the City Seats Initiative list!
Finally, if you are Parliamentary hopeful and the above hasn't put you off, I earlier referred to TUNbridge and Mauling being of the the UKs loveliest constituencies.  Just in case you have never visited out little corner of Kent, here are some photographs of our towns and villages.  I am so fortunate to work in such a wonderful place.










West Malling
(My office is the ragstone building to the right of the clock)


West Peckham

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