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General Election: Kent's famous losers at the polls include Margaret Thatcher, Cherie Blair and Jack Straw

You may have noticed there's a General Election coming up.

And while all the focus will be on those candidates securing a seat in Westminster, spare a thought for the many more whose 15 minutes of fame will come to an end with defeat.

When the votes are counted and the winner revealed the losers can still go on to bigger and better things
When the votes are counted and the winner revealed the losers can still go on to bigger and better things

Except, just once in a while, those 15 minutes of seeing their names on posters and the ballot papers will be a mere a hors d'oeuvres to a glittering career to come.

We take a look back at some of the famous faces who stood - and lost - in General Elections across Kent over the years.

Margaret Thatcher

While perhaps the most Marmite of all politicians will be remembered for her premiership during the 1980s, it was almost 30 years earlier that a young Margaret Thatcher took her first tentative steps towards Westminster.

Then the little known Margaret Roberts, she tried twice, in the post-war elections of 1950 and 1951, to gain some ground in the (then) safe Labour seat of Dartford.

Then: Margaret Roberts and future husband Denis Thatcher who she met in Dartford
Then: Margaret Roberts and future husband Denis Thatcher who she met in Dartford

She failed to win on both occasions, but did manage to grow the Tory vote on each occasion.

She didn't come away completely empty-handed, however. After attending a dinner at the Paint Trade Federation she met Denis Thatcher in the town. Amid such romantic surroundings, it wasn't quite love at first sight, with the future Prime Minister describing him as "not a very attractive creature". That must have hurt. Nonetheless, we can only assume she got over that as they married two years later.

He can have barely imagined how his surname would end up being one of the most famous in British political history.

Three years later she was rejected as a Tory candidate for Orpington. The local party probably would go on to feel a bit like the fellow who turned down the Beatles.

After pausing to raise her two young children, she tried again in 1959 when she ran in the safe Tory seat of Finchley and the rest, as they say, was history; eventually rising to take over the keys of Number 10 in 1979 and leading the nation until her ousting from office in 1990.

Mrs T stood for Dartford, twice, and was beaten, twice
Mrs T stood for Dartford, twice, and was beaten, twice

Jack Straw

When a new constituency formed from parts of the truest of true blue towns in the county (if not the country), Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, it was seen as a shoe-in for the young John Stanley who was standing as the Tory candidate.

But that didn't deter a fresh-faced lawyer by the name of Jack Straw giving it a go.

He didn't have high hopes.

"I had a side bet with the Liberal, each of us betting that we'd come third," the future foreign and home secretary under the Tony Blair government would reflect later, "I took a bit of money off him for that - I came third by 18 votes."

Former foreign and home secretary Jack Straw made his first bid to be an MP in Tonbridge
Former foreign and home secretary Jack Straw made his first bid to be an MP in Tonbridge

The Liberal was still more than 10,000 votes off the winning Tory.

“I fancied a dry run,” said Mr Straw. “A Labour candidate was not going to win Tonbridge and Malling but I thought it would be interesting, basically, to find out if I wanted to be in politics.”

He clearly did and three years later was elected as MP for Blackburn - which clearly had a very different democratic - a role he would keep until he stepped down after a distinguished career on the front benches under the premierships of Blair and Gordon Brown.

Cherie Blair

Rather unfairly maligned in the press, Cherie Blair will be remembered as the wife of another Marmite politician - Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. But not only did she have a highly impressive legal career, but she was neck-a-neck with him at one stage to become an MP.

Then: Cherie Booth tried to with North Thanet in 1983
Then: Cherie Booth tried to with North Thanet in 1983

The year was 1983, and while the future Prime Minister was winning Sedgefield - which he would continue to serve until he decided to step down as PM in 2007 -she was fighting it out in the newly created seat of North Thanet. She'd become a barrister some seven years before.

The Conservatives were expected to romp home, and indeed they did - with Sir Roger Gale (then just plain Mr Gale) winning the seat with a more than comfortable majority of in excess of 14,000.

As for Mrs Blair - or Cherie Booth as she was - she came third, behind both the Tory and SDP (remember them?) candidate.

Speaking many years later, her foray into politics didn't sit particularly comfortable with her husband.

She recalled: "At one point, Tony was asked to do the washing up with my agent's wife and she asked him: 'Are you interested in politics?'. He says it was his worst moment."

Now: Cherie Blair enjoyed a glittering career in law
Now: Cherie Blair enjoyed a glittering career in law

Just 14 years later, the pair were walking into Number 10.

Nigel Farage

Chances are you've heard of Mr Farage; he's not the shy retiring type. But despite his undeniable massive influence on British politics over recent years, he has always come up against the same problem when it comes to becoming an MP - not getting enough people to vote for him.

Having lived in Westerham for many year, his first attempt was in Eastleigh in a by-election in 1994, followed by attempts in Salisbury and Bexhill & Battle.

He first contested a seat in 2005 in South Thanet, then held by Labour's Steve Ladyman. He modestly increased Ukip's vote share but not enough to finish higher than fourth.

Then: Mr Farage as a fresh-faced, ahem, candidate in 2005 in South Thanet
Then: Mr Farage as a fresh-faced, ahem, candidate in 2005 in South Thanet

The following year he was fighting for Bromley & Chislehurst in a by-election. Securing a modest 8% of the vote he came joint third - seeing off the Labour candidate in the process.

After attempting to win in Buckingham in 2010 (during which a light plane flying a Ukip banner, and with him inside, crashed leaving him with broken ribs and a punctured lung), for the 2015 election he eyed up both Folkestone & Hythe and South Thanet before opting for the latter. And we know what happened there.

In one of the most high profile campaigns he still couldn't muster up the support he needed but did come jolly close. He increased the Ukip vote by 27% but still came just under 3,000 votes behind Tory Craig Mackinlay. He did beat comedy turn Al Murray though. So that's something.

After seven defeats, he's, perhaps wisely, opted to sit the 2019 election out.

Now: Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is not standing for MP this time around
Now: Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is not standing for MP this time around

John Aspinall

Think of the name Aspinall and you'll either think of wildlife parks or casinos. Well, many say standing for election is a gamble and you end up in the Westminster zoo, so perhaps John Aspinall's bid to become an MP was to be expected.

Back in the days before Ukip, there was the Referendum Party. The brainchild of multi-millionaire James Goldsmith, it campaigned on a single issue - for a referendum to be called over leading the EU. Sound familiar?

Well in 1997, it stood a host of candidates - plenty of them chums of Goldsmith. Among their number was John Aspinall who stood for the Folkestone & Hythe seat. He secured 8% of the vote - and came fourth.

John Aspinall swapped rhinos for the Referendum Party...albeit briefly
John Aspinall swapped rhinos for the Referendum Party...albeit briefly

Emily Thornberry

One of Labour's front-bench big hitters now for several years, in 2001 Emily Thornberry stood in Canterbury, hoping to spring a surprise as Tony Blair prepared for another landslide victory.

Having attended the University of Kent, and having previous worked for ferry firm Townsend Thoresen (later to become P&O) on the Dover to Zeebrugge route as a cleaner, she was no stranger to the county.

And she fought a good campaign enhancing the Labour vote to close within just 2,000 votes of Tory incumbent Julian Brazier.

Then: Emily Thornberry on the hustings during the 2001 General Election campaign in Canterbury
Then: Emily Thornberry on the hustings during the 2001 General Election campaign in Canterbury

Four years later she was elected in Islington and has served in the shadow cabinets of both Ed Miliband (although she got booted out by him though after tweeting a picture of a house in Rochester decked out in St George's flags and with a white van outside) and then Jeremy Corbyn. She was most recently shadow first secretary.

Now: Emily Thornberry is one of Labour's most high profile figures
Now: Emily Thornberry is one of Labour's most high profile figures

Read more: For all the latest news on the General Election


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