As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, local Conservatives enter their Annual Dinner Season. It’s a special time of year, providing as it does an excuse for the men to show off their winter black tie plumage, while the ladies, in the traditional way, outshine them by some way.
This year it was back to Kent County Cricket Club and the Harris Room overlooking the pitch, which even in total darkness manages to appear immaculate.
There’s something quintessentially conservative about a venue such as this, one that proudly shows off its history, whether it’s the honours board detailing the great names such as Woolley and Cowdrey, or the press clipping of a memorable double century. Then a short walk away stands the Indoor School helping the next generation of Kent cricketers get their own names etched onto that same honours board.
It wasn’t just the food, the drinks and the raffle that filled every seat, but the appearance of Tracey Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, who made the trip down the M2 to be guest speaker.
Two things hinted as to the type of politician has since proven to be.
On arrival she admitted to having got lost on the way to the cricket club, and somehow on the road to Ashford. She admitted that she preferred not to use SatNav for driving assistance. “I don’t like being told what to do,” she said, grinning.
That seems to be a theme with Tracey. The night before she had been one of 15 MPs awarded The Spectator magazine’s Parliamentarian of the Year Award (the very same award won by our own MP Julian Brazier 20 years prior), for her refusal to vote with the government on statutory press regulation.
What followed was a delicious meal, the odd bottle of claret, and a chance to catch up with old friends. Then, a great question and answer session with Tracey.
Questions came up on such things as local government, from the leader of Canterbury Council John Gilbey, as well as representatives of KCC. In the answers there was no hedging or bluster, just intelligent and thoughtful opinions.
Wine and good company normally lends itself to putting the worlds to right. Tracey went beyond that, discussing all things, from the Portsmouth shipyards, education funding for the south east, devolution, and even her sporting prowess as a football coach.
The attendees of a black tie dinner come from every generation. But Tracey Crouch manages to bridge the gap between the old and the new Conservative. On the one hand she is a young, energetic politician, acting on her conscience and the wishes of her constituents.
At the same time her politics remain deeply rooted in the proper Conservative values that have run through the party for generations, those of hard work and liberty, honouring the past and the future, as well as poking the odd bit of fun at the opposition.
She won a room full of new admirers and will no doubt have a few extra volunteers out on the streets of Chatham and Aylesford in 2015.
An enjoyable night for all involved.