Monday, May 21 2018

Published on August 31 2017. Culture

Politicos to tell all at Festival

Bringing a political element to this year’s Rye Arts Festival, the organising committee is delighted that Dame Margaret Hodge MP (hot-footing from the annual Labour Party Conference) and the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke MP will both be speaking.

Margaret Hodge

Dame Margaret will be talking at Rye Community Centre at 6pm on Thursday September 28. And the Festival is also pleased that former Hastings and Rye MP, Michael Foster, Deputy Lieutenant of East Sussex and former government colleague of the speaker will be here to introduce her.

The theme of Dame Margaret’s talk, and book, is Called to Account which looks at waste in public expenditure – something about which she knows a lot about since she was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in Westminster from 2010 to 2015 and the job of that committee was, and is, to scrutinise the £700 billion of annual public expenditure. She has lots of enthralling, sometimes funny and also downright scary anecdotes about her time heading the Committee. We may hope, also, for some current political gossip!

Dame Margaret has a long political career, becoming a councillor in Islington in 1973, and quickly became head of the housing committee before leader of the Council in 1981 until 1992. In 1994 she was elected for Barking, a seat she has held till this day. She served in Government through most of the Blair and Brown years including being Children’s Minister and Minister for Culture and Tourism. For some of that time she was in Government with Michael Foster, who was Minister for Equalities and who steered the 2010 Equalities Act through Parliament.

Kenneth Clarke

Kenneth Clarke MP is talking at this year’s opening event in the Milligan Theatre at 11am on Saturday September 16. He will look back at his first 50 years in politics – time that has earned him the title of Father of the House. The jazz-loving Tory MP, who originally trained as a lawer (becoming a QC in 1980), was first elected to parliament for the East Midlands constituency of Rushcliffe in 1970 and has served as an MP without a break ever since (Labour MP Dennis Skinner is the only other sitting member to have similar longevity).

He has seen five Conservative prime ministers and held ministerial positions (including Education, Home Secretary and Chancellor) under three of them. His last major appointment was Lord Chancellor and Minister of Justice under David Cameron. He has announced that he will not be seeking re-election after the end of the current parliament.  He has always been a staunch advocate of the EU and, even now, while recognising the wishes of the country in last year’s referendum, continues to argue for the softest of soft Brexits.

He is a lifelong fan of jazz, sport and birdwatching and maybe some of this, as well as many political anecdotes will feature in his talk. Coincidentally, he will be talking on the 30th anniversary to the day of Black Wednesday when the pound crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. The government spent £3.2 billion in vain trying to keep the pound in, and financial speculator George Soros trousered a billion pounds as he bet the right way that the pound was doomed (thereby effectively dooming the pound). It was following this event (and as a result of it) that Prime Minister John Major appointed him Chancellor in place of the sacked Norman Lamont.

Photos courtesy Rye Arts Festival

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