Reflections on Knutsford Heath

The heavy rains of recent week gave the opportunity for unusual photographs on Knutsford Heath. Normally it’s just green grass.

In the background to the right, behind the woman in red, is the Longview Hotel, now closed down. It was in this hotel that the white-suited journalist Martin Bell initially stayed during the election campaign of 1997. Running on an anti-corruption campaign with cross-party (and my) support, Bell displaced the previous sitting MP Neil Hamilton. Hamilton famously confronted Bell on the heath at the time, in what became known as the Battle of Knutsford Heath (see video). It’s difficult to believe that was now 25 years ago.

Also relevant to the theme of this blog, the Longview was where, in 1993, we hosted Lord David Ennals, once UK Secretary of State for Social Services, when he came to give the first of the Knutsford Lecture series of ‘Visions of a New Renaissance’, under his title ‘Practical Non-violence’. The gracious elder statesman gave us insight into the the resolution of then-world conflicts, including those in former Yugoslavia and Georgia. Le plus ça change…

One thought on “Reflections on Knutsford Heath

  1. Well that clip from 1997 brought it all back! I was walking our dog on the Heath when it happened and was carefully skirting around the press pack on their step ladders filming & recording it. I got a better view when I saw it on the news, but the tension was palpable. Hamilton, interestingly, stands with arms folded throughout – a spot of defensive body language there. Christine, (wife) the dragon, butts in persistently & appears to be in the role of protective mother. I’d seen them arrive at the Heath and noticed Hamilton had some make up on (probably foundation) so they were expecting the press with lights and cameras. It’s thought someone tipped them off so they could ambush Martin Bell’s open-air press conference. (Bell was staying at the Longview Hotel mentioned in the post). Several recognisable members of the Tory party were hurrying along with them, so the cavalry had been called in to support Hamilton.

    I followed up my very eventful dog walk by volunteering to help the Bell campaign and spent the next 3 weeks working part-time at the old, empty, electricity showroom in Knutsford, which had been taken over as Bell’s office. Bigwigs from all 3 main parties were there and supportive celebrities and well-known people sent messages, flowers, gifts & money to help the campaign (I gave actor & singer David Soul a lift to Wilmslow in my car. He sang to me; I reminded him to fasten his seat belt!).

    That Heath has a fair bit of history too – it used to be a racecourse.

    Liked by 1 person

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