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.

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7 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    As we are living longer & staying fitter & well longer, this trend is likely to continue. My only problem would be remembering which police force I was Commissioner for!

  2. HampshireConservative says:

    Michael, this isn’t a blow for the opposition in Hampshire, but a plus for them. I attended the three hustings this week, and Michael Mates’ performance was utterly appalling. He has absolutely no grip on the legislation. The PCC is about the Police being accountable to the public – Michael Mates has no plan. He’s said his intention is to call in the Chief Constable and have the odd chat. The only thing Michael Mates pulled off last night was wheeling out 90 70, 80, and 90 year olds, some of who fell asleep, some on oxygen, and most of all who did not care or understand what they were voting for. It was a pure numbers game, and he wheeled out the old guard to cross the box for him. Mates is absolutely not representative of the modern Conservative Party, and alas, there is a real risk that the PCC in Hampshire will be either Labour, or Lib Dem. In contrast, Donna Jones, the runner up had real vision, real integrity, and the energy to deliver this incredibly exciting new role for the people of Hampshire.

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Regretable that you attribute such ageist attitudes to ‘modern conservatives’.

  3. Onlooker says:

    How sad that someone who calls himself HampshireConservative should be so disloyal and give such comfort to the real opposition. I doubt very much if his preferred candidate would support his comments in view of her integrity.

  4. Rose Bowl says:

    Apart from the obvious subjective bias from a rival candidates supporter, which is so crass as to discredit Ms Jones, Mates was the best choice. If she wants to be a politician she’ll have to do better than this…

    Mates was the only one with the understanding of the legislation, the political nous and the approach required to deal with responsibility at this level. All that said, Age is not on his side, and he looks grimly tired. Shame the party didn’t spark to the other talent available and use Mates as their mentor. Win, win situation, but their loss. All that we can now expect is a series of negative headlines from now until election day. What a missed chance.

    The other parties have no chance here in Hampshire; the biggest threat comes from an Independent. We’ll be looking long and hard for one of those…..

  5. Andrew Dundas says:

    It takes time for new laws to change cultures. The Age Discrimination Act was only passed six years ago. So there’s still a long way to go before we forget ‘age’ and focus on judgement instead.
    Lots of older folks have held highly responsible political office. Ronald Reagan was 73 when he began his first term and John McCain is still one of the most effective US Senators.
    I don’t agree with the opinions of either gent, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone acknowledging their policy capacity well into their seventies.

  6. Unbelievable says:

    One also must question the procedure used in this selection process. Without going into detail it resulted in just over half of 300 mostly geriatric Tory members voting in a man who left a political career with a series of maverick acts by which he is remembered and which will be repeated (as they already have in press reports of his selection!)by the opposition in the run-up to November 15th. The winner is supposed to represent 1.9 MILLION Hampshire and I o W residents. I quite liked the idea of an elected sheriff; this fiasco has destroyed that attraction which it had.

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