I'd been looking forward to getting to know Michael Ancram much better after the General Election - in the House of Commons tearoom. Actually, this isn't true. I don't allow myself to exhibit hubristic confidence about my own election prospects. In any case, it now cannot be, because earlier today he announced that he is standing down from the House of Commons. I am saddened by this decision. I have always reckoned Michael to be a really top man, as well as a great representative of the Conservative Party.
The Telegraph's reporting of Michael's decision to stand down is a disgrace. The BBC's reporting is also unduly snide. I supported the Telegraph's reporting of the details of MP's expenses - but the way that the newspaper is now attributing every retirement from the House of Commons as one just another 'scalp' is nauseating. I do not know what has been the attitude to Michael Ancram by the good people of Devizes, but there's no reason whatsoever to imagine that he has been pressured to retire, or dismiss the reasons that he has given publicly for stepping down.
I first met Michael Ancram when he represented the Welsh interest in the Shadow Cabinet as Constitutional Affairs Spokesman between 1997-1998, before being promoted to Party Chairman. He was a very relaxed, 'easy to talk to', politician who was genuinely willing to listen. When William Hague stepped down after the 2001 General Election, he was my first choice to become the new leader, but was defeated in the first ballot. Interesting fact about Michael is that he once defeated Gordon Brown in a General Election - Edinburgh South in 1979. Another interesting, though better known fact is that he is a hereditary peer - The Most Hon. The Marquis of Lothian. He also plays a very mean guitar and has a pleasing singing voice. Unlike the snide journalists at the Telegraph, I very much hope that removing himself from the stress of an MP's life will lead to improved health and a long, enjoyment-filled retirement.