WHEN Sir Tony Baldry first enterered parliament, Banbury and Bicester were sleepy market towns, and no-one had even dreamed of ‘Twitter’.

But 30 years on, the North Oxfordshire MP is still taking all the changes in his stride, and Tweeting every step of the way.

And despite what anyone would consider a very good innings for an MP, there’s still no end in sight for Sir Tony.

He said: “I’ve been re-selected for the next General Election, so we will just see what happens from there.”

In 1983, Margaret Thatcher won a landslide second victory and a triumphant Mr Baldry emerged victorious as Banbury’s new MP. Now, the man once known as “keeper of the hairspray” as an aide to the Iron Lady, is looking back on 30 years of unprecedented change in his constituency.

Sir Tony, 62, said: “Back in 1983 Banbury was an edge-of-West Midlands town. The M40 extension from Oxford hadn’t been built so all the traffic from Oxford to Birmingham trundled through the centre of Banbury. “The first campaign I took on was as president of the M40 support group to ensure that the extension from Oxford to Birmingham was built as quickly as possible. It had been on the drawing board for 30 years.

“At that time it took nearly two hours to get by train from Banbury to London, so I think there were real issues about where was Banbury’s future, where was it going, was it an agricultural town? “Bicester was, of course, much much smaller than it is now. It was still a comparatively small market town.

“I think over the 30-year period what has been really exciting is seeing both Banbury and Bicester develop into quite exciting communities.

“Banbury today has an unemployment rate of less than two per cent. It’s got some really exciting businesses like Crompton Technology, Prodrive, Norbar Torque, world-beating engineering businesses, the M40 is built and you can get to London by train in minutes over an hour.

“Bicester over the next 30 years is going to be a town which people will talk more and more about. I hope in due course that Bicester will become a garden city, we now have an opportunity of creating a new identity.”

Sir Tony has grappled with the moral issues which have dominated his time in the lower house. He said: “Sometimes during the 30 years I have been in the House I have been on the wrong side of the vote and sometimes I’ve been on the right side of the vote.

“Sometimes I have been on the wrong side of the vote but ultimately on the right side of the argument.

“One of the things I’m most glad I did in the Commons was to vote against the Iraq War. I voted against it because I thought it was against international law.

“So although I was in the minority in that case, I think the arguments eventually proved us to be correct, and that’s democracy.”

He said he had watched party membership dwindle, and said politics was a very different ball game now than it was in 1983.

He said: “Thirty years ago all political parties had significantly larger memberships. When I was first elected, most weekends I would be going to branch events, which just doesn’t happen now.

“On the other hand, the only way I could communicate with electors in 1983 was by letter or by articles in local newspapers, but now I have a website and I can load articles and Tweet them to tell people they’re on the website.

“I think that’s fine for someone like myself who has been around for a long time, but I think it must be much harder for newer MPs who are having to be much more self-supporting because they just haven’t got the organisational base we had when I was elected.”


July 10, 1950: Tony Baldry born in Hillingdon, to parents Peter, a research worker at Harefield Hospital, and Oina Baldry.

1974: Personal assistant to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Maurice MacMillan, later assistant to Margaret Thatcher.

1975: Joined Margaret Thatcher’s private office.

1979: Contested the Thurrock constituency, losing out to Labour’s Oonagh McDonald by 6,419 votes. Married first wife Catherine shortly before the election.

1981: Selected to contest the Banbury constituency after Sir Neil Marten retires.

June 9, 1983: Won Banbury with a majority of 13,025 over his nearest rival, the Social Democratic Party candidate K Fitchett. Son Edward born.

1985: Appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Minister for Europe Lynda Chalker. Daughter Honor born.

1987: Retained Banbury with increased majority of 17,330. Appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to House of Commons Leader John Wakeham.

1990: Appointed Minister for Energy by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. November

1990: Appointed to the Department for Environment as a minister. 1992: Retained Banbury with a majority of 16,720.

1994: Transferred to Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 1995: Divorced Catherine.

1996: Appointed to final ministerial post, at the Ministry of Agriculture.

1997: Retained Banbury with smaller majority, just 4,737, in the Labour landslide election.

2001: Retained Banbury with majority of 5,219 over his Labour rival Les Sibley. Married second and current wife Pippa.

2005: Retained Banbury with majority of 10,797, once again over Les Sibley.

2010: Retained Banbury with majority of 18,227. Appointed Church Estates commissioner.

2012: It was announced he would receive a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours list.


On David Cameron: “The Prime Minister is my next-door neighbour. I was the first former minister to declare for him in the leadership campaign and I think he’s doing a really good job.”

On the 1983 General Election: “It was Margaret Thatcher’s second election and what was interesting was the Banbury constituency was the seat that Labour would have had to have won if they were to have formed an overall majority in that General Election.”

On party membership and support: “When one goes knocking on doors for elections, the number of people who have an enduring commitment to a particular political party, come what may, has shrunk enormously.”

On the recent county council election results: “Those votes were protest votes and protest votes don’t go to parties which are part of the Government. Of course one has to acknowledge the concerns people have, but I think one needs always to get them into proportion.”

On gay marriage: “It seemed to me that if ministers are willing to make concessions there has to be some, you can’t just say ‘I’m going to vote against you regardless of what you do’, so I abstained. But I still see, and I’m sure that a very large number of my constituents will still see, marriage as being as a traditional institution between one man and one woman.”

On his darkest moments: “I think the darkest time in my 30 years was when I got divorced. That was pretty grim, and I think that just reflects that being an MP, there are lots of pressures on one’s family.”


Name: Sir Tony Baldry

Age: 62

Lives: Bloxham, North Oxfordshire

Family: Wife Pippa, son Edward and daughter Honor

Education: Leighton Park School in Reading, Sussex University (law)

Profession before Parliament: Barrister