Tessa Munt’s Winning Ways
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th May, 2011
One of the most pleasant surprises towards the end of the long election night in May 2010 was the LibDem gain of the parliamentary seat of Wells in Somerset. It had been a target seat, near target, even a near miss for at least 30 years but it seemed as if the land-owning Tory grandee David Heathcoat-Amory was ensconced for life. However Tessa Munt — who had fought the seat five years previously — winkled him out last year. This evening, at a Putney Liberal Democrats’ fundraising event, she told us all how: selling her house and giving up paid employment in order to work 24/7 at winning over initially sceptical voters, especially in the villages. Systematically she went canvassing the whole area, as well as holding advice surgeries and attending parish council meetings and keeping up a strong literature campaign. Of course, my good friend (and sometime fellow Euro-candidate) Alan Butt Philip and his successors had done a lot of the spadework in elections past, but Tessa added the manure — so to speak — that turned that ground truly fertile. Manure is an apposite metaphor, as Heathcoat-Amory got into the headlines of several Tory newspapers over charging large quantities of it to the taxpayer as expenses. Worse, as Tessa’s team eagerly pointed out as the 2010 election loomed, despite being the most sceptic of Euro-sceptics, he was receiving large subsidies from Brussels for his farm. Tessa had to pinch herself when she walked into the House of Commons for the first time and she still gets a thrill every time she crosses the threshold, knowing she is now where she belongs. She acts as a Whip among LibDem MPs, who, as she admits, are a fairly independent-minded lot, as she is herself — a member of CND and a supporter of Medical Aid for Palestine, and as she puts it, an all-round irritant (in the best sense of the word).