The Forum talks to Lord and Lady Wakeham

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From a life in business which has at times been controversial; to a life in politics which not only saw Lord Wakeham join Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet as Chief Whip from 1983-1987 and then Energy Secretary from 1992-94; but also suffer personal tragedy when he and his late wife were victims of the 1984 terrorist bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton.

Having been made a life peer in 1992 he went on to compile the Wakeham Report on the reform of the House of Lords in 1999. He now lives in Hampshire with Lady Wakeham MBE who was once personal secretary to Margaret Thatcher

What first attracted you to live in Alresford?
JW: I was living in Bramdean in 1965, and then moved to Old Alresford in 1970 as we found the perfect family house.

Do you have a favourite place here?
The River Arle

Lord Wakeham, how did you feel about the titles ‘Mr Fix It’ and the ‘Minister for banana skins’ that you were known as during your time in Government?
“Mr Fix-It” means you are considered trustworthy by both sides in negotiations, which is essential.

You both worked for Margaret Thatcher. How was that experience for you individually?
For both, it was the greatest experience in our working lives. Alison started working for Margaret Thatcher in 1970.

Was it a huge honour to have you wedding reception at Number 10?
Yes, of course. It was a small family wedding and a happy day.

What, for you both, was the most difficult time in Parliament?
There were many difficult times, but the important thing is how you react when unexpected problems crop up.

Lord Wakeham, do you miss you role as Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and why?
I enjoyed the job enormously, but it was challenging. I was sad to see the difficulties that arose after I had retired.

How difficult is it for a politician to make the career move from politics to business?
In my case, it was the other way round. I made a career in business before moving into politics; I have always felt it important that MPs have different life experiences to contribute to Parliament.

Do you feel it’s right that such moves should so scrutinised or isn’t a blurring of conflict of interest boundaries inevitable?
Conflicts of interests tend to arise in every walk of life! The really important thing is that any potential conflicts are declared.

What do you both consider the most important attributes for a good politician are?
The same as in business: total integrity. A sense of humour helps! And you can never have too much background briefing.

Can you tell us about any humorous incidents in Parliament or the House of Lords?
There are many, but of course these things invariably happen by accident, for example slips of the tongue which become malapropisms … and become public at once with today’s media.

We all remember the horror of the Brighton bombing. May I ask as a victim of terrorism how you feel about the threat that currently surrounds the world today?
Terrorism is the curse of the modern world, and many of the victims are those simply going about their every day lives, such as travelling on a tube train.

What are your mantras for life?
Peace, with freedom and justice. Don’t waste a day; you never know what tomorrow will bring.

What three things could each not live without?
JW: A good night’s sleep, a newspaper, breakfast of grapefruit and boiled egg. AW: Book of Common Prayer, my childhood friends, and the shops in Alresford!

What next for Lord and Lady Wakeham?
To see our grandchildren grow up; and to see more of the British Isles.

Lady Wakeham is Patron of Home-Start Winchester and District. They are holding a charity dog walk on 17th March leaving from Kilmeston Village Hall at 10:30. £10 to include soup and a ploughman’s lunch. For more information contact: info@home-startwinchester.org.uk.

Lady Wakeham would also like to mention that the AgeUk shop in Broad Street Alresford is desperately seeking more quality donations after their busy Christmas.

-GG

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