North Shropshire Conservative candidate adopts Norman Lamont’s losing election tactic

In the 1997 general election campaign, boundary changes had forced the unpopular* former Conservative Chancellor, Norman Lamont, to seek election elsewhere. Harrogate, to be precise, which is where I was working on the Liberal Democrat campaign.

All through the campaign, Lamont avoided the national media. Hence my experience** of chatting with a journalist at one point, them pausing, looking over my shoulder at a passing vehicle, and running off at high speed after it shouting, back at me, ‘Sorry, that’s Norman Lamont. I’ve got to go chase him!’

Lamont’s desire to avoid the media for fear of negative coverage itself became a negative media story.

All of which I was reminded of by the news from North Shropshire:

Senior Conservative Party officials have ordered the party’s North Shropshire by-election candidate not to speak to media amid concerns he knows so little about the area, insiders say…

Local party members reckon the new man has so little understanding of the rural issues faced in the sprawling agricultural constituency that he has been told to avoid press interviews for fear he will damage his own campaign.

He has done almost no media appearances since he was selected as the Tories’ candidate on 13 November. Requests to speak him have been ignored by both Dr Shastri-Hurst himself and Matthew Follows, the party’s regional press officer for the West Midlands. [The Independent]

* He featured more often in Liberal Democrat by-election leaflets of the era than he did in Conservative ones.

** According to my memory which I suspect has speeded up the journalist’s running, at the very least.

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One response to “North Shropshire Conservative candidate adopts Norman Lamont’s losing election tactic”

  1. Con candidate not knowing the area – reminds me of Clement Freud’s Ely by-election (1973). Back then, hustings meetings were quite popular, and the presence of TV personality Clement ensured larger audiences than usual.
    Some of the local farmers decided to see how much the candidates knew of the area. One asked the Conservative about government policy on agriculture, and was treated to a long statement assuring him that barley subsidies would be continued. To which the farmer responded, “Don’t care about BARLEY. Nobody grows BARLEY round here.”
    Another tried to catch Clement out with a long rambling and very technical question about the Wheat Investment Scheme Board or some such. Clement simply replied, “Yes.” “Next question?”

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