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Eric Pickles MP: The Thatcher Years began for me with feelings of disappointment and regret

Maggie at 30
Picture 1 Conservative Party Chairman Eric Pickles recollects an election night which saw him elected to Bradford council, but disappointment at the narrow defeat of the Conservative candidate in Keighley.

The Thatcher years started for me with feelings of sadness, disappointment and regret. The stinging disappointment came from our failure to take the Labour seat of Keighley by 78 votes. With that kind of margin you can pinpoint individual failures in every polling district.

I had volunteered to act as aide our candidate, John Dawson, a man who I liked and admired, and I threw myself into the campaign. The sitting Labour MP was the late Bob Cryer, well on the left of his party, and an important scalp. The election coincided with the council elections and I stood as a candidate. I spent more time on the constituency activity than in my ward.

After our return from the parliamentary count, I was told that a check of the votes during the separation of the ballot papers indication that I had personally lost. Regretting that I had not done more in my own interest, I turned up for the council declaration and found, on the first count, that I had lost by a small margin. We had a bundle check and I won by a lot - an experience that taught me to be vigilant and unremitting at counts.

It was only later in the day that the enormity of the Thatcher victory finally seeped into my consciousness. At the next general election Keighley became Conservative and remained so until 1997.

Lord Hurd provided his recollection of the 1979 election earlier today, and others will follow during the course of the day.


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