Edward Woodward – Cornish memories of a star who signed my nomination papers…

Edward Woodward

Edward Woodward was kind enough to sign my nomination papers and join the Liberal Democrats at the same time...

Edward Woodward, actor, star and gentleman has died aged 79. Most people, of my generation, know him from ‘The Equalizer’, but I remember the day he nominated me to stand for the Calstock Division of Cornwall County Council in 1997.

Arriving at his beautiful house, near Calstock in Cornwall, he had one of those beautiful drives that my little car looked slightly out of place on, but nonetheless a beaming Edward came to the door, and myself and Yuan Potts were beckoned into his house for the best cup of coffee I have ever had in the most elegant kitchen I had seen.

The meeting was mainly about his coming out as a Liberal Democrat, in the press, that morning to support Colin Breed in the general election campaign of 1997.

In 1997, the County Council elections were on the same day, so I wisely took my nomination papers for Edward, and his wife, Michele Dotrice, to sign, as we both lived in the same ward.  They were more than glad to. 

On time, Paul Tyler, MP for North Cornwall, Robin Teverson MEP and Colin arrived for the photo call for the local press and media, and as this was very recent to his starring in ‘The Equalizer’ the Western Morning News ran with the story – Woodward Equalizes Campaign for the Lib Dems.

As well as walking away with my nominations and his membership subscription to the Liberal Democrats he also agreed to chair the party rally, to be held in Liskeard, on the eve of the general election, to be addressed by Shirley Williams and David Steel.

It was a great event and Edward chaired it with panache and style, in a way that only real stars can.

I met him just a few times, but he was genuine and decent man who made you feel welcome and special.  A real star who kept his feet on the ground and was a genuine encouragement to a young agent!

I achieved a 46% swing in the election but still came second – work that one out!

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The Candidate’s Aide’s Briefing – Lesson 3 – Open topped Vehicles

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Cornish lanes are very narrow - battle buses can get lodged between cottages by their tannoys!

No election campaign is complete without the health hazard that is a ride in an open topped bus.

Roaring along the roads of Littleborough and Saddleworth, during the 1995 by-election, on the top of an open topped Southport bus, was something to remember.

Chris Davies’ campaign needed a bit of razzmatazz and so I was given the job of organising a whistle stop tour on top of the bus.  It was a great day with David Steel, Liz Lynne, Chris and a local brass band. 

The only problem when whizzing along Lancashire lanes was that overhanging trees can be quite a hazard at high speed, and on more than one occasion the advice to ‘duck’ was roared by one, or other, of the team.

This did not compare to my first experience of an open topped vehicle, a flat bed van, with Nancy Seear, during the Mid-Staffordshire by-election.  I am sure this would no longer be allowed in public due to health and safety, but the sight of Nancy on the back of a lorry, bellowing over a public address is the nearest experience, that is possible, to getting to Boudica charging into battle.

However the 2005 election, in South East Cornwall, explains perfectly the hazards of open topped buses in election campaigning.

The election was going well in Cornwall, but the public lacked enthusiasm for our campaign, so we decided on a bit of high profile, ‘visibility’!

We did a grand tour of the constituency with a set route, and the ubiquitous brass band.  Having visited Torpoint we set off for Saltash.  Now those that know the area will tell you that the shortest route, without going into Devon, from one to the other can go through a village called St Germans, but knowing the size of the vehicle we had decided to take the long way round.

Thinking he knew better the candidate decided that a diversion, via the village, and a quick blast of the tannoy, was the perfect route.

Cornish lanes do not lend themselves to large vehicles, and unsurprising to the organisers a large ‘CLANG!’ rang out from the front of the vehicle as we drove through the village.

On inspection we discovered that the bus was jammed, via its tannoy horn, to a cottage wall and due to the way it had stopped the bus could not move either forward or back.

After a lengthy impromptu speech from the MP to vote for the Liberal Democrats, and several bursts from the brass band to cover up the swearing and heaving,  the bus was released from the cottage wall, but not after a lot of red faces and apologies from the candidate to both the cottage resident and party staff.

It was a great day!