It was the Tunbridge Wells AGM last evening at the Mercure Hotel in Pembury.
There was a real "blood run cold" moment when we arrived and the receptionist, having consulted her screen, announced with certainty "there's no booking for you tonight."
Scenes of hapless Agent being beaten with walking sticks brandished by angry coiffured ladies filled my mind. "There must be" I said, trying to sound more confident than I was. "I have paid and received confirmation". Tapping of keys. "NO! I can see a booking in your name for a small room next Saturday morning, with coffee and bacon sandwiches at 9am, and you've paid for that. But nothing in the name of the Conservative Party tonight. Sorry. Perhaps you are confused"
I glanced nervously at Jon. Jon was staring at his shoes - he too could see the writing on the wall. Actually - he could see the ghastly corporate carpet - I was being metaphoric. In my case all I could see was the writing on my P45.
"Do you happen to have a room large enough for 100 people available in the next 30 minutes?" I enquired, employing the triumph of hope over experience approach. More tapping of keys. "I am so sorry - we don't. The only room large enough for 100 people is booked tonight for the Tunbridge Wells Conservatories" Suddenly the weight lifted from my shoulders and the sun started shining again. "That's me, that's me"! I proclaimed. I had never been so grateful to be confused with a cheap plastic lean-to in a suburban garden.
After the initial horror, all went well. Our President, Alex King MBE, Chaired (or does a President Preside?) over the meeting superbly. There were no rows or angry protests. No-one shouted "point of order, Mr Chairman". Even the secret ballot to ratify our local government candidates produced as close to unanimity as is possible in any Conservative Association!
The Chairman handed out Champagne, chocolates and flowers and kissed cheeks of the various prize winners. Having presented Richard Ashworth MEP with flowers for Mrs Ashworth last week at Tonbridge & Malling's AGM I sourced a box lovely hand-made chocolates for her gift last night. Next week he's singing for his supper again in Chatham & Aylesford, and I am running out of gift ideas. Suggestions on a postcard!
The highlight of the evening, however, was Greg's address. Greg is one of those politicians who always manages to strike the right tone and can speak fluently, confidently and openly without notes. A true gift and skill for any politician.
Last night, however, was extra special.Greg had brought Lord Mayhew with him to the meeting; the first time he has attended for a number of years. During his speech he announced why. Lord Mayhew had been elected MP for Tunbridge Wells 40 years ago, in February 1974. Greg delivered a very moving tribute to his predecessor but one (Archie Norman served two terms in between) and presented him with a gift to mark the occasion. In his reply, Lord Mayhew, in is 85th year, spoke fondly of his time in Mrs Thatcher's government, recalled his selection meeting and some of the people who were active in the Association then and told the story of how his then Chairman and Agent rejected his suggestion of fighting the 1974 election (during the three-day week and at the peak of Trades Union power) on the slogan "Vote Labour and dig your own grave".
It was a great honour to hear two great Conservative Parliamentarians speak in the same room.