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Where are they now? Kent's former MPs including Charlie Elphicke, Ann Widdecombe, Michael Howard and Jonathan Aitken

Remember when everyone used to watch Big Brother? How we'd all love watching an ego crushed by this revolutionary televisual technique of having the viewers vote whether the housemates stay or go?

Well, for the county's MPs the thrill/dread (delete as an individual's self-confidence dictates) of the public deciding their fate, is all part of the job .

Keeping your seat in the Commons is no easy task for most MPs
Keeping your seat in the Commons is no easy task for most MPs

And, just like Big Brother, you can't help but wonder where these people who once were so ominpresent are now? From prison time to the chiefs of top companies, few decided just to put their feet up.

For many MPs, of course, the outcome of elections are pretty much foregone conclusions.

Sir Roger Gale in North Thanet, for example, took up his seat in Westminster when the threat of nuclear war still hung over us, Jim'll Fix It was on Saturday night prime-time TV and the first mobile phone call was still some years away from being made. Since 1983 he's never really looked like losing.

Damian Green in Ashford has consistently grown his majority in the safe Tory seat in Ashford since 1997 after taking over from the now late Sir Keith Speed - a man who had held the seat for the previous 23 years. While in Tonbridge, Sir John Stanley was MP for a remarkable 41 years before deciding, in 2015, he'd had enough of the commute.

But what of the many others who once made the headlines before they were either unceremoniously dumped at the ballot box or opted for a life more ordinary?

The ballot box - the fickle friend of any politician
The ballot box - the fickle friend of any politician

We take a look at just a few of the more recent politicians and ask where are they now?

Mark Reckless - Rochester and Strood 2010-2015

They certainly know how to elect a headline grabber in Rochester. First there was Labour's Bob Marshall-Andrews a man who made rebelling against his leader - PM Tony Blair - something of a hobby. Then, when he decided he was going to step down ahead of the 2010 election (he would go on to defect to the Lib Dems in 2016 ); his place was taken by Mark Reckless.

Often tipped to be one of the Tory party's emerging stars (despite admitting he once missed a vital vote on account of having had too much to drink), he stunned Westminster by defecting to Nigel Farage's Ukip on live TV during its party conference in 2014. He may have retained the seat at a by-election later that year , but by the 2015 General Election he was seen off by Tory Kelly Tolhurst at the second time of asking.

By 2017, and having become a member of the Welsh Assembly under the Ukip flag, he switched to support the Tory group before changing colours again in 2019 and teaming up with Farage's Brexit Party . One can only assume he has a whole draw at home dedicated to party rosettes of different hues.

Mark 'today I'll be mostly voting for Ukip' Reckless
Mark 'today I'll be mostly voting for Ukip' Reckless

Today he is leader of the group on the Senedd and turns 50 in December.

Archie Norman - Tunbridge Wells 1997-2005

When former Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew decided to bring his 23-year tenure as MP for Tunbridge Wells to an end at the 1997 election, the Tories opted for a high-profile replacement.

Enter Archie Norman, a man whose meteoric career had been something to behold. He had become group finance director at retail giant Kingfisher in 1986 (the then owner of such high street giants as Woolworths, Comet and Superdrug) at the tender age of 32 and, just five years later, was appointed chief executive of Asda.

Surprisingly, then perhaps, he decided that with Tony Blair on the cusp of power, he opted to pursue a career in Westminster. Although he did get to add chief executive of the Conservative Party to his CV as he gatecrashed the shadow cabinet.

Former Tunbridge Wells MP and business big-wig Archie Norman
Former Tunbridge Wells MP and business big-wig Archie Norman

However, by 2004 he'd decided he wanted to return to the world of business and by the 2005 election he'd stood aside for Greg Clark .

He's not stood still though, becoming involved in a host of business interests including stints as chairman of ITV and Hobbycraft, and, in 2017, was appointed chairman of Marks & Spencer. He's not just any former MP, you know.

Now 66, it's probably fair to say he's not short of a bob or two.

Ann Widdecombe - Maidstone and The Weald 1987-2010

Chances are you'll know what Ms Widdecombe has been up to since she bowed out of frontline politics 10 years ago, on account she has become perhaps the most unlikely politician-turned-celebrity.

Ann Widdecombe, politician-turned-celebrity
Ann Widdecombe, politician-turned-celebrity

Having served on the front benches under John Major, she would later become Shadow Home Secretary. Most famous for quipping in 1997 there was "something of the night" about her then-fellow Kent MP Michael Howard, it was felt she would slip from the public gaze when she stepped down in 2010. We should have known better.

Courtesy of regular outspoken views and a diverse range of TV appearances (from Celebrity Big Brother to guest host of Have I Got News For You), her celebrity crown was firmly fixed to her head after appearing in the 2010 edition of Strictly Come Dancing.

She's got no less outspoken as she's got older though. Last year she teamed up with Nigel Farage to win a seat for his Brexit Party in the European elections . She also stood - but was beaten - as an MP in December's election for the same party in Plymouth.

Today, she remains high-profile and continues to write a regular column for the Daily Express. She turns 73 in October.

Stephen Ladyman - South Thanet 1997-2010

Stephen Ladyman bowed out following his 2010 election defeat
Stephen Ladyman bowed out following his 2010 election defeat

Stephen Ladyman was, in many ways, the epitome of New Labour. He was elected after over-turning an 11,500 majority in the South Thanet seat previously held by Jonathan Aitken - the former Tory minister who famously vowed to "cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play" only to be jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

He went on to become Minister for Transport in Tony Blair's government - famously admitting while appearing on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson that he had been caught speeding and had nine points on his licence.

But as New Labour's flame died, so did his political career with defeat in the 2010 election to Laura Sandys .

After running a consultancy - Ladyman Services - for a number of years, he founded Oak Retirement in Somerset which specialises in property for those of a vintage age. As of June this year, the 67-year-old was also appointed as the new chair of the Wiltshire Health and Care NHS partnership.

Jonathan Aitken - South Thanet 1974-1997

Nigel Farage and former Thanet MP Jonathan Aitken
Nigel Farage and former Thanet MP Jonathan Aitken

Mr Aitken and his famous 'sword of truth' line will, no doubt, forever haunt him as he took a lead role in the rogue's gallery of Tory ministers embroiled in scandals as John Major's administration crumbled around him in the mid-1990s.

He was sentenced to 18 months in jail after a High Court libel battle against the Guardian and the World in Action collapsed and ultimately saw his reputation destroyed.

He was charged - and pleaded guilty to, perjury and perverting the course of justice in 1999. He found himself unable to afford the legal costs and collapsed into bankruptcy. Something for him to ponder during the seven months he served behind bars before emerging from HMP Elmley on Sheppey.

But it emerged he'd pondered more than just where his next career move would take him. He had spent the time in his cell studying the Bible and emerged determined to follow his faith.

Today he is the Reverend Jonathan Aitken (he was ordained in 2018) and is, wouldn't you just guess it, a priest and part time prison chaplain at HMP Pentonville. In May, he suffered a heart attack induced after catching Covid-19 from which he is recovering. He's now 78. Pre-pandemic he was also a regular on the public speaker circuit.

Former MP Hugh Robertson is now chairman of Camelot
Former MP Hugh Robertson is now chairman of Camelot

Hugh Robertson - Faversham & Mid Kent MP 2001-2015

After replacing Andrew Rowe in the 2001 election as the Tory candidate, Hugh Robertson then managed to achieve the distinction of being the only MP to double his majority in successive elections - helped in part by the implosion of New Labour.

Prior to his election, he'd spent a decade as an officer in the Army, serving in Northern Ireland, the Gulf War and during the siege of Sarajevo. The cut and thrust of Westminster was child's play in comparison.

As Minister for Sport under David Cameron, he oversaw the delivery of the hugely successful London 2012 Olympic Games - for which he was knighted - and went on to be Minister of State at the Foreign Office where he was responsible for the Middle East, North Africa and counter terrorism.

After deciding to stand down ahead of the 2015 election - Helen Whately replaced him - he's gone to further success. Today, at 57, he is chairman of both Camelot, operator of the National Lottery, and the British Olympic Association. He remains one of the county's Deputy Lieutenants .

Former Canterbury MP Julian Brazier
Former Canterbury MP Julian Brazier

Julian Brazier - Canterbury 1987- 2017

Julian Brazier was one of those MPs who probably barely endured a sleepless night in the run up to a General Election. As the incumbent in a seat which was so historically Conservative it would have bled blue, the smart money was always on him leaving Westminster when he fancied it and not a day before. But then politics stopped being something you could predict with any accuracy and all hell broke loose.

In what was one of the biggest shocks of the snap 2017 General Election, Labour's Rosie Duffield defied the odds and poor old Sir Julian (he'd been knighted in the New Year's Honours that very year) saw his handsome majority overturned and his P45 handed to him.

Shortly after his defeat, he ruled out any suggestion he'd stand again and instead became chairman of Pathway Risk Management, a firm which specialises in security for big events - a role he retains today at the age of 67.

Jacques Arnold - Gravesham 1987-1997

Former MP Jacques Arnold - who has written some perfect bedtime reading over the years
Former MP Jacques Arnold - who has written some perfect bedtime reading over the years

After 10 years serving the good folk of Gravesham, Jacques Arnold was one of the many Tory MPs swept away by New Labour in its landslide victory of 1997.

Defeat by Labour's Chris Pond was not one he took lying down - standing against him four years later in a bid to regain his seat...only to come second again.

Since then he's kept himself busy in a variety of ways - primarily as a special advisor on Latin American affairs and business. Having been schooled in Brazil - he returned to the UK to attend university - and spending time there working prior to standing for Westminster - he certainly knows his stuff. He even threw his name in the hat as the Tory candidate for the first Kent Police and Crime Commissioner . But didn't reach the ballot paper.

He's also penned no less than 33 volumes on the Royal Houses of Europe - a detailed history of the blue bloods across the continent - as well as A History of Britain's Parliamentary Constituencies. A little light reading for you.

Mr Arnold, now 73, continues to be active in local politics as president of the Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling Conservative Association. He's also one of Kent's Deputy Lieutenants .

Derek Wyatt was the first MP to have his own app, don't you know
Derek Wyatt was the first MP to have his own app, don't you know

Derek Wyatt - Sittingbourne and Sheppey 1997-2010

He's played rugby union for England, founded Sky's pioneering technology channel .tv in the 1990s and then had to quit after he found himself elected to serve as Labour's Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP in 1997.

Derek Wyatt served the constituency - including having the slimmest majority in the Commons in the 2005 election with a victory margin of just 79 votes - up until he decided to step down ahead of the 2010 poll.

And since then he's continued with a wide variety of business interests, which included stints as chairman of the Royal Trinity Hospice in Clapham and acting as chair and founder of the Brain Campaign charity.

Last year, at the age of 69, he secured a Masters in International Relations after a two year part-time course and was appointed to the board of the politically neutral Digital Policy Alliance which provides a cross-party policy voice on the internet and technology sector .

Michael Howard recently hit the headlines for criticising Boris Johnson
Michael Howard recently hit the headlines for criticising Boris Johnson

Michael Howard - Folkestone and Hythe 1983-2010

Just cast your mind over recent weeks and it quickly becomes apparent that Michael Howard is still very much active in the world of politics.

He may be 79 now, but he’s a Tory grandee after a remarkably successful political career which saw him become a household name as part of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, before going on to become Home Secretary under John Major. Once the Tories had been ousted from power, he then went on to lead the party in opposition for two years before a certain David Cameron took his place and he announced he was stepping down as an MP prior to the 2010 election.

That same year, he was made a life peer adopting the grand title of Baron Howard of Lympne.

He went on to serve as non-executive director on a number of boards and remains vocal in the House of Lords - most recently publicly criticising PM Boris Johnson for his plans to potentially break international law over the terms of the Brexit divorce deal.

Disgraced former Dover and Deal MP Charile Elphicke - currently behind bars
Disgraced former Dover and Deal MP Charile Elphicke - currently behind bars

Charlie Elphicke - Dover and Deal 2010-2019

Probably best not to dwell on the first of the Elphicke clan to lay claim to the parliamentary seat of Dover and Deal.

Charlie Elphicke won the seat after overturning Labour incumbent Gwyn Prosser's almost 5,000 majority in 2010. But after being charged over sexual assault claims against two women he stood aside ahead of the 2019 poll - with his wife, Natalie , taking his place on the ballot paper and winning.

In July, Elphicke was found guilty and in September was jailed for two year. He is currently residing at Her Majesty's pleasure.

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