I had something of an advantage in that I have been associated with this grand school since the 1970s and worked on the Cambridgeshire Education Committee with the former Warden (Head), Mr John Brackenbury. More recent developments there have included the International Sixth Form which offers the International Baccalaureate, for which I have long been an advocate.
Anyway, the meeting was well attended and was very ably chaired by the Revd. James Blandford-Baker, Vicar of St. Andrew's, Histon & Impington, and Rural Dean. Mr Blandford-Baker had several helpers and the organisation worked very efficiently.
Questions came from the audience and included one about our loss of freedom, one on education, one on the problems of the deaf and hard of hearing, one (from a friend of mine, the Revd. Brian Macdonald-Milne, who recently took our Harvest Service at 'The Little Chapel in The Fen) on 'the elderly,' one on Europe and the Euro, one on 'feral' children and one on 'personal beliefs and values,' which was taken by some on the panel as being about religion, whereas the questioner intended it to be broader. We all did our best. The most intriguing answer to this question came from Mr John Cowan, the Labour candidate, and even more was revealed to us than had been revealed earlier in the day by the Cambridge News (with much more in today's paper, involving, damagingly for them, the Liberal Democrats, too). It seems that Mr Cowan is a pagan. I don't really know much about paganism, having been brought up in the Church of England, and I fear that the audience still don't know much more about paganism from Mr Cowan, for I have to report that he was on his finest rambling form and I fear that he 'lost' his audience.
Here is Mr Cowan rambling.
I foresee a collapse in the Labour vote as I hear via the internet grapevine that there is even more to be revealed regarding Mr Cowan.
I repeat what I have said in my election address, 'Bearing in mind that Labour is a lost cause in South East Cambridgeshire, I urge Labour supporters to vote for me as I am in tune with much of what New Labour is and has done.'
It's at this point - about half-way through the official campaign - that I offer a brief assessment of the other respective and prospective candidates.
Mr Jonathan Chatfield of the Liberal Democrats, who was in second place last time, is seen by many, particularly by the local Lib Dems, as again being in with a good chance. From my personal observations, I believe that the man is nice and pleasant but a little lacking in personality. I hesitate to describe him as boring, but I have been bored by the Lib Dem party line put over by him and I also have to say that the record of those local Lib Dems does not inspire confidence. When in charge of East Cambridgeshire District Council they were known for their profligacy and financial incompetence and those now in charge of the City of Cambridge had the 'wisdom' to 'invest' £9 millions of the Council Tax payers' money - that's NINE MILLION POUNDS - in an Icelandic bank. See the BBC story at -
Mr Chatfield also spouts the usual Lib Dem 'holier than thou' line about Lib Dem MPs' expenses. I guess that he will be a bit embarrassed by the story on Nick Clegg and his private bank account in today's Daily Telegraph at -
As to Mr Monk of UKIP and Mr Bell of the Christian Peoples Alliance, I can offer no assessment because they have yet to be seen.
There remain Mr James Paice, Conservative, Mr Simon Sedgwick-Jell, the Green Party, and myself, Independent.
Mr Paice, whom I have known for more than thirty years and for whom I have worked in the past, has been our MP for 23 years. On that basis, he asks for a renewed mandate. I have to report what others are saying to me, namely, that Mr Paice is now looking 'tired.' I think that I would look tired after 23 years in the House of Commons, much of those years spent in opposition. If elected, I plan to be a member for about two terms, a total of no more than ten years. Mr Paice, also, is more than capable of promoting the party line. The trouble for him is that, in his 23 years in the House, the Tory party line has changed - often. Successive Tory party leaders whom he has served under have been Margaret Thatcher, John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith, Michael Howard and David (call me 'Dave') Cameron. With each leader change, the party line changed. And now 'Dave' is claiming that the party itself has changed. Mr Paice's political career now reminds me of the ecclesiastical career of the eponymous vicar of the parish of Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire. The chorus of the old song, 'The Vicar Of Bray,' goes as follows:
"And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!"
Mr Sedgwick-Jell, in my opinion, is by far the best-educated and most erudite of those canvassing for the votes of the electors of South East Cambridgeshire. His appearance, that of Esau, 'an hairy man,' reminded Sue (and she said so last evening) of the Marquess of Bath. Here are the respective gentlemen's portraits for comparison.
I believe that Simon Sedgwick-Jell is extremely intelligent and would be a good and worthy MP for South East Cambridgeshire. I wish him well, especially as he agrees with me regarding the dreadfully wasteful adventure in Afghanistan (like me, Simon says, 'Bring our boys home now'). That's a rare thing, isn't it? One candidate 'endorsing' another!
Now, me. Despite being 72 and having been taken for Mr Paice's younger brother (he is 61), I believe that I have sufficient experience and learning to take on this job. I feel very fit indeed - fitter still after many weeks of canvassing street by street - and I am confident that, say, the next ten years will be the best of my life. I am at that point in life when one has a huge amount in one's bank of knowledge and memory and well before the the point when one starts to lose that knowledge and memory. And besides, as I said last evening in my 'winding-up' address, I am different from those with a party line. I am independent.
Here I am on the platform last evening. Unfortunately, Mr Sedgwick-Jell is partly hidden in this picture by Mr Chatfield. He deserves better and we will attempt to get a better picture of him this evening at Haddenham Baptist Church, the venue of the next 'hustings' meeting.