6 Jul 2012

Michael Mates flies the oldie flag

In recent years all the trends in British politics have been the other way – our politicians have been getting younger and younger. For example John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron all successively broke modern records for youth as prime minister, while the 2010 election saw 14 MPs elected who were only in their 20s, more than at any election since the war (and many were elected in safe seats).

Michael Mates [pictured] last night delivered a small blow in the opposite direction. Mr Mates, 78, who was born on 9 June 1934, was picked as the Conservative candidate for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in November’s election for police and crime commissioner (PCC).  It’s a striking comeback by Mr Mates, who stood down as MP for East Hampshire in 2010, having sat in the House since 1974. He was a close lieutenant of Michael Heseltine in the 1980s and 90s, but served only briefly as a minister (at the Northern Ireland office from 1992-93) before he was forced out over his embarrassing relationship with the businessman Asil Nadir, who was being pursued by the police over fraud enquiries at his firm, Polly Peck.

Mr Mates famously sent Mr Nadir a watch engraved with the words; “Don’t let the buggers get you down”. Indeed that relationship could still embarrass the would-be police commissioner Mr Mates, as Mr Nadir is currently on trial for theft at the Old Bailey.

On Twitter this morning I asked if anyone could think of anybody older than Michael Mates who have been selected for a winnable seat (I don’t include people who’ve simply been re-selected by their parties).

The Labour History Group came up with Robert Carden, who was elected MP for Barnstaple at the age of 78 in 1880, having been out of the House for more than 20 years. I did a quick calculation and worked out that Mr Carden was 18 days older when elected in 1880 (at 78 years and 177 days old) than Mates will be if elected a police commissioner on 15 November (when he’ll be 78 years and 159 days old).

By the end of a full term as police commissioner in 2016, Michael Mates would be almost 82.

Meanwhile John Prescott, who is Labour’s candidate for PCC on Humberside, and favourite to get elected there, is also flying the oldie flag.  He’s 74.

Follow Michael on Twitter via @MichaelLCrick