Shortly after the Second World War the former Women’s Conservative Club on 9 Hawks Lane in Canterbury, became the Association’s headquarters. Sir John Prestige, who was Association President at the time and the owner of Bourne Park, in Bridge, persuaded several members of the Executive Committee to buy an interest bond in order to purchase the building as the Constituency Headquarters, which they subsequently did.
When Ted Brown became Agent in 1949, he asked these members to donate their shares in the building to the association. They generously complied with this request, leaving a considerable legacy to the Association. During the 1992 General Election campaign the building was destroyed by fire. But, being a Grade II listed building, it was rebuilt. It was thought at the time that arson may have been the cause of the fire, but a Fire Service examination suggested that this was not so. With the changing needs of the Association, the fall off of demand for office space in the city due to Covid-19 and the earlier move of our support functions into the shared space at Paddock Wood with Kent Conservatives it was decided at the 2020 AGM to dispose of the property and invest the funds for the future work of the Association. A sale was agreed in June 2021 and the disposal of the site is currently underway.
Members of Parliament
John Baker White – 1945-1953
When Party Politics resumed in 1945 following the war, John Baker White was elected as Member of Parliament for Canterbury. The Baker White Family, owned, and still owns, much farming land in East Kent. John Baker White had enjoyed a distinguished career in his country’s service both before and after the war to the extent that his name was entered in the German records of people they would arrest had they succeeded in invading Britain. He had several books published including the autobiography “True Blue.”
Leslie Thomas — 1953-1966
Leslie was son of James Thomas (known as Jimmy), a former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer and trade union organiser. He became PPS to Dr. Charles Hill, who was Secretary of State for Health but had previously been well known as the Radio Doctor. Leslie was knighted in 1960, after which he became known as “The Silent Knight” due to the infrequency of his interventions in the Chamber.
Sir David Crouch — 1966-1987 Knighted 1987
Sir David was noted for his excellent constituency work and his ability to charm those on all sides of the political spectrum. Tall and patrician in appearance, he had at one time had ambitions to act. This led Dennis Skinner to refer to him rather unkindly as “The William Hyde White of the Commons.” Sir David’s concerns over the Falklands conflict led to an Association ball being featured on the BBC “Panorama” programme with predictably embarrassing results. (Younger Conservatives in dinner jackets should never dance in the presence of a TV crew.) Unfortunately, high office eluded him, perhaps because his thoughtful nature was not suited to the certainties of the Thatcher years.
Julian Brazier — 1987- 2017
Julian Brazier was an impressive parliamentary candidate and has been an outstanding MP.
Julian served for many years as an officer in the Territorial Army, six of which were in the airborne forces. Displaying a remarkable intellect, he was awarded Spectator magazine’s “Parliamentary Backbencher of the Year Award” in 1996 following his work defending marriage and amending legislation concerning MoD housing.
Julian is a widely admired and respected in the constituency. In 2010 was appointed by the Prime Minister David Cameron to the Reserve Commission as Deputy to the Vice Chair of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton. In July 2014, Julian Brazier was appointed Minister for the Reserves in the Ministry of Defence.
The Canterbury Association has been fortunate to have had excellent MPs who have always put the interests of their constituents and their country first. We have had brushes with ministers and Prime Ministers but as yet none have come from Canterbury. But for a twist of fate, history could have been very different. Margaret Thatcher applied for nomination as our Candidate in 1953 but was unsuccessful, a period of her life portrayed in the 2008 BBC play “The Long Walk to Finchley.”
Early Party events
Every year on the last Saturday in July, a large Summer Fayre used to be held at the then Drill Hall, now the Westgate Hall, in Canterbury. All branches of the constituency took part and farmers and business were very generous with their donations of fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers.
At the entrance door was a huge display of carnations donated by Mount’s Nurseries which were then situated along Forty Acres Road occupying land now almost all part of the University. When the Drill Hall became Council property a summer fete was organised in various places in the constituency. There were also fetes and fairs in Whitstable and Herne Bay.
In 1963 and 1964 an ox roast took place at Harmonsole Farm, then home of Robin Baker White. These events raised a large sum for the Party with other fund raising events, large and small, organised regularly all over the Constituency. On occasion during the 60's and 70's these attracted the attentions of opposition parties and, during at least one fair, the party agent’s home was picketed by the Communist Party. Not exactly a laugh a minute bunch, they failed see the funny side when presented the opportunity to buy raffle tickets.
The Women’s Council was formed at Central Office in 1947. In 1957 the Council opened with an afternoon tea and a speech from an MP in Canterbury.
The purpose of the Council was to involve more women in politics, something which, had Mrs Thatcher become our MP, would no doubt have met with her approval. Mrs Thatcher did in fact return on one occasion as a guest speaker, and managed to lose her car in the multi-storey car park.
The Women’s Council became a very strong branch of the Constituency with 90 members at one point. Afternoon tea was eventually changed to luncheon meetings, with the Committee members themselves doing the catering. They also held a large Bring-and-Buy sale each year.
It was a great blow to Canterbury Association when, in 1983, boundary changes took Herne Bay from the Canterbury constituency and into North Thanet. Herne Bay was a very strong branch of the Constituency both in members and supporters and naturally produced similarly strong Conservative turnouts at election time.
Canterbury had always been considered one of the best Constituencies in the country and at one time could boast 8,000 members. The loss of Herne Bay contributed to what was becoming a much more difficult era in local politics.
The Politics of Yesteryear
Politics in the 1960's and 70's was rather more robust than the more consensual style that has prevailed since the Conservative Party won the battle of ideas over Labour.
Students then were heavily political rather than merely academic and concerned for their future, and few of them leaned naturally towards the Conservative Party.
It is one of history’s ironies that local Conservative politicians, particularly councillors, lobbied hard to bring a University to Canterbury, but would then be voted out by many of the residents of that institution.
The left drew heavily on both staff and students for support and activists, which made for some quite lively campaigning.
In 1968 Ted Heath came to speak at the University as leader of the opposition and found a hall filled with left wing activists, many bussed in from the LSE and elsewhere. Sadly their commitment to free speech only extended to those with whom they agreed and Heath was not heard. Similar scenes were repeated in the 1980's over the opposition to nuclear armaments — particularly American cruise missiles – and a number of rowdy meetings ensued.
Opposition and rowdiness, however, did not always come from the left. After his “winds of change” speech to the South African parliament, Harold Macmillan was regularly heckled by a group calling themselves the “Empire Loyalists” and when a rally was arranged at Chilham Castle, thanks to the courtesy of Viscount Masserine and Ferrard, difficulties from these disaffected forerunners of the BNP were to be expected.
Volunteer stewards were stationed around the crowd with the intent of escorting troublemakers out. One such was a very distinguished Lloyd’s underwriter who had the misfortune to be seated next to the one demonstrator who duly made a bid to interrupt Macmillan’s speech. The steward had been told to quiet anyone who caused trouble and duly carried out his instructions with a magnificent right hook, felling the troublemaker. This was observed by the Constituency Agent from beneath the platform who quickly removed the now silent demonstrator into the custody of the police. It is hard to imagine such a scene today.
Politics in Britain has changed greatly from the mass rallies and election meetings that were typical in post war politics and even those of the 1970's. Television has taken over much of the debate and some may take the view that as a result much discussion has been stifled. The great issues of Socialism vs. Capitalism, and the mass Trade Union movements, have largely been resolved and have since departed the political landscape.