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Michael Jack Retires

Michael Jack RetiresFor reasons that most of our readers will probably understand, we're often accused of being anti-conservative. We don't believe we are of course. We see ourselves as supporters of plain common sense and 'small c' conserving of traditions and values.

That's why we're very sad that today, when Parliament ends and the run up to the next election begins, Fylde's Member of Parliament for the last two decades is hanging up his order papers.

We'll come clean straight away and say we know him a bit, and that we share some circumstantial connections.

We were born within a year of each other, and both have agricultural connections to the food growing areas of Hesketh Bank and Ormskirk. Both of us came to this area at about the same time, and have mixed in civic socialising on and off over the years.

We were a lot younger then of course, but we remember him at that time as being full of capable enthusiasm that has matured over time just like good wine.

We have had professional and personal dealings with him, and we quickly grew to respect and appreciate his ability, his unswerving professionalism and commitment to the people of Fylde, and his belief in the things that are important to them.

We have never known him put party politics above the needs of the people of Fylde, and he is without doubt his own man.

That's not to say we agreed on everything, we tend to be 'a bit' more euro sceptic, but we both have a belief in the importance of agriculture to this country, and in conserving the best that Fylde has to offer.

With a majority of 12,000 at the last election, we guess one or two other people share that view as well.

And before anyone thinks his going is connected with the expenses issue that has caused so much damage, let us be unequivocal and say that his announcement to retire was made back in 2008, well before news of that was publicised. So there is no connection.

And knowing the man, we're sure he will be saddened to be going at a time when it might even look as though there was a connection.

He had an enormous constituency of about 90,000, stretching from St Annes in the West, to Ingol, Catforth, Inskip, and St Michaels in the East, and returning via Singleton, Normoss and Staining.

His week has been split between Westminster Monday to Friday and the Fylde Constituency from Friday to Sunday (when he returned to London ready to start another Monday).

Yes, there are longish holiday periods in the Parliamentary recesses, but the gruelling rhythm of weekly travel would be a marriage and family wrecker in a family of lesser strength.

And make no mistake, behind Michael Jack stands a woman of awesome common sense and judgement. His wife Alison has a career in her own right, but as many will know, she is a woman of strong will and convictions, and will fight for what she believes in. Kensington learned that when she accepted the chair of Defend Lytham

Michael's career in Westminster has been a solid one. By that we mean he has been a trusted, steady and reliable pair of hands that always did a good job, but which, in our view, didn't always secure the best personal advancement for him.

In terms of his record, his early postings were as PPS to the Local Government Minister, and the Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Food. He was Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Social Security, then Minister of State, first at the Home Office, and later the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.

he became Financial Secretary to the Treasury under Ken Clarke, with special responsibility for UK tax policy, and it looked as though a Cabinet position was calling until Labour won the 1997 election.

He was also appointed to the Privy Council which provides personal and trusted advice to the Sovereign.

He has served on the Agriculture Select Committee, the  Environment, Food and Rural affairs Select Committee, and chaired the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

On the more negative side, we believe that although his support for John Major's successful leadership bid helped his career forward, his support for Ken Clarke's 1997 failed bid to become Party Leader, together with views that were less euro sceptic than leading colleagues at the time, may have kept him from reaching even higher office. Westminster is a bit like that. Those who support a winner usually get the spoils of war.

Michael Jack is a man of the soil. He has an allotment in Fylde (and is a very capable grower) which helps him unwind from the pressures of his constituency work, and we know he has a love of sailing.

So, he will soon be gone, and we hear Tuscany might see more of him that it has up to now.

He leaves a large hole to fill, but his would-be successor - Mark Menzies - is becoming well known in the area, and his approach reminds us a lot of Michael Jack when he first came to Fylde.

So we hope that, as a reputed 'anti-conservative' influence, if we raise a glass to say a thank you to Michael Jack for what he has done for the people of Fylde, it won't be to his detriment.

counterbalance salutes and thanks Michel Jack, and says well done; enjoy a well earned retirement.

Dated:   12 April  2010


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