Ken Houghton bids farewell after 30 years of serving Skipton and Ripon constituency (From Craven Herald)
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Ken Houghton bids farewell after 30 years of serving Skipton and Ripon constituency
Nobody should assume that the job of agent for the rural constituency of Skipton and Ripon is deviod of its sparky, even life-threatening moments.
Speak to Ken Houghton about his time in charge of the constituency for the Tories and you’ll come away with a jaw-dropping different view.
During his 30 years working out of the constituency’s head office in Otley Street, Skipton, he has been almost blown up twice – not in Skipton, he quickly adds.
Ken was there during the biggest attack on the British Government when the Provisional IRA blew up The Grand Hotel in Brighton in October 1984. The bid to kill Prime Minister Magraret Thatcher failed, but five people died. Ken had left the hotel just five minutes before the explosion.
He recalls vividly the boom of the blast and the “tinkle-tinkle” of debris falling on the roof of the nearby guesthouse where he was staying.
He said: “The next morning Maggie came onto the platform and declared the conference would go on. It was a most moving experience, something I shall never forget.”
Some years later he exprienced another near miss when he was a delegate in Georgia helping the country set up democratic procedures and principles.
“I left a building in a taxi –the driver couldn’t speak English – and a few minutes later the building was blown-up.
“We were driving along and he answered his mobile telephone and suddenly skidded off the road.
“I had no idea at first what had happened because of the language problem but he had obviously been shocked by the news.”
His job also took him three times to Azerbaijan helping to train political agents as the country moved towards democracy.
Ken, who is retiring from the job and celebrated his 65th birthday on Christmas Eve, lives in Embsay with his wife Pat. He started his career as a trainee agent in 1970 and came to Skipton in 1983, moving from the old Ripon constituency as part of new boundary changes.
He has overseen every General Election and district election since and has entertained people in the Skipton and Ripon consituency like Cecil Parkinson, Jeffrey Archer, William Hague and Margaret Thatcher.
“We were told she was passing through the constituency on the way to Leeds and had two hours to hastily organise a meeting in Huby, the other side of the constituency,” said Ken.
Sticking in his memory is the trauma of the foot and mouth outbreak and a meeting in Skipton Town Hall in which MP David Curry, then working in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, stood on a ‘soap box’ and addressed hundreds of disgruntled farmers and political activists.
So many people turned up, they spilled out into the High Street car park.
Ken will carry on with some consultancy work and expects to still be involved in helping with local elections in the near future.