It was an honour tonight to welcome one of the rising stars of the 2010 parliamentary intake to Tonbridge & Malling; Rory Stewart OBE MP. Rory was guest of honour at the Leybourne & The Mallings Branch Cheese and Wine, held at Leybourne Castle.
Rory is incredibly charismatic and delivered a thoughtful speech about foreign affairs, the Act of Union and on the pessimism which he feared is limiting our vision and influence in the post-Soviet settlement. It was totally free from hubris; not the standard speech delivered at Tory events, but Rory is far from a standard politician.
Tom Tugendhat and Rory are old friends, and he came at Tom's personal invitation. I suspect before long Tom will be flying to Cumbria to repay the favour. We were very fortunate to have such an outstanding guest.
Here is a photo of Tom and Rory (poor quality - sorry, lighting in these 900 year old castles isn't ideal for mobile phone photography!)
And, as always, a vote of thanks to the committee - without whose hard work and dedication nothing would be possible.
Twelve years ago when Steve and I first came to Kent, I relaunched the Leybourne & The Mallings branch and for two years was its chairman; so I have a soft spot and fond memories of this committee. Of the members who worked with me 12 years ago, seven are still active and present above: Richard Brown, Gill Levine, Edward and Thirza Pugh, Gill McDermott and Brian and Joy Luker.
An amusing aside: Jon Botten led the canvassing team in Staplehurst tonight, but gave me a well-thumbed copy of Rory's book "The Places in Between" for Rory to sign. I placed the book down on the desk Rory was using to help carry a box of wine, but when I returned the book had gone. Apparently, someone had bought it! Fearing the wrath of Jon, I had to go around the 70 guests asking if they had it, finally tracking it down to a man who I didn't know and who also happened to be deaf. I then had to explain very loudly that the book he had just bought was not for sale and that I really needed it back as it belonged to a friend. I managed to convince him, handed back the £10 he paid for it (which I didn't have the heart to reclaim from the branch) and rescued my credibility with Jon; who I can now look in the eye when I return to the office next week!