Peter Hough

Peter Hough
Click on picture to go to my website

Friday, 15 April 2011

The day we met Norman Lamb, over a hog-roast...

I must admit that the day we met Norman Lamb, we didn't know who he was. What a difference a few years make.

Iain Brodie Browne in his blog was asking why the LibDem North Norfolk MP wasn't given the Health Minister's job - after Andrew Lansley was ordered by Cameron to 'pause' the Health & Social Care Bill for two months consultation and reflection.

Lamb, an acknowledged expert on the NHS, has publicly opposed the handing over of the NHS budget to GPs. The wounded Tory minister now looks inept and doesn't have the backing of nurses, after their vote of  'no confidence'. That's why the web is alive with twitterings saying that Lamb would make a far better job. Ironic then, that it was Lansley who blocked Lamb from having a ministerial job in his department during the coalition negotiations.

It was the summer of 2005, just a couple of months after the General Election, and we were caravanning in Norfolk. When we're away, we like to attend local community events. We'd spotted a poster outside a care home saying that they were having a fund-raising garden fete on Saturday, and that 'Norman Lamb MP' was opening it.

We thought that was our kind of thing, and indeed it proved to be the case. There were stalls selling all sorts of things from local beer to paintings by Norfolk artists, knitted animals, food and cheeses. Traditional games were evident too; smack the rat, hook a duck, hoopla and there was a coconut shy.

What was different about this traditional English garden fete, which at the same time enhanced it, was that the Asian staff were turned out in their 'Sunday best'. The women wore very colourful saris, and the men were resplendent in sarongs and kurtas. These young people were very caring towards their patients who obviously had psychological and physiological problems.

As soon as we were there, Linda spotted the home made cake stall and headed straight for it. After buying a large chocolate cake, I decided to take it to the car for safe keeping (from Linda). I arrived back just as the manager of the home was introducing Norman Lamb.

Norman was dressed smart but casual, in a jacket and open neck shirt. As he spoke in an easy and entertaining style, we speculated which party he represented. We knew it was historically a Conservative part of the country, but that we had made an impact over recent years. Certainly the MP didn't look like a Tory, and he didn't sound like one either... so if it didn't look like a duck, and didn't quack like one - then perhaps it wasn't one?

After the opening speech, I approached one of the senior staff, and asked her who he was. A smile beamed across her face, and she explained he was their Liberal Democrat MP. She said they were genuinely delighted when he accepted the invitation to open the fete, because, she explained: "This is only a modest event, and we didn't think he would be interested in coming along!"

Vegetarians turn away - Linda checking the hog-roast
Norman spent over one and a half hours talking to people, and having a go at some of the games. We were hovering by the pig roast when he came over and ordered some pork in a bun together with the delicious stuffing and apple sauce. He turned to us, and we introduced ourselves as Liberal Democrats from Crosby near Southport. His eyes lit up.

"What are you doing here?" He asked.

"Well, I said, "we heard you were opening the fete and hopped on the train."

It was at that point I discovered that people standing nearby had been listening in, because they all laughed. After a long chat, he said:

"Give my regards to John Pugh, we were both elected for the first time in 2001, and have become friends."

He was still shaking his head in amazement, that out of all the garden fetes in all the world, we should have turned up there...

No comments:

Post a Comment