THIRTY years on, memories of the Brighton bomb blast that outraged the nation remain fresh in Sir Tony Baldry’s mind.

At the time he was a junior MP and attended the Tory Party conference in 1984 with his then wife Catherine and their one-year-old son Edd.

They chose to stay at the Old Ship Hotel, about 300 yards away from the seafront Grand Hotel, which was torn apart by an IRA bomb on October 12, 1984. Five people were killed and 31 people injured.

Sir Tony, who will be standing down as MP for Banbury at the next election, said: “During the Conservative Party’s history it has undergone many dark days as well as good days and the Brighton bomb was certainly a very dark day.

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“It was the year after I had been first elected to Parliament and my wife Catherine and I had taken our young one-year old son Edd with us down to Brighton.

“I remember on the day before the Brighton bomb, Edd playing on the beach at Brighton with Tony Berry, then a senior Conservative MP who very kindly took time out to play with Edd.

“That night Tony Berry was one of those killed by the Brighton bomb.

“The bomb was, of course, a terrible tragedy for those who lost their lives and for those like Margaret Tebbit who were seriously injured.

“However, Margaret Thatcher was resolutely determined that we would in no way be bowed by the IRA.

“The conference the next day went on as usual.”

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  • Sir Tony with Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s

At the time of the blast, Sir Tony feared for the safety of his godmother, Lady Lillian Ashdown, who was staying at the Grand.

Her husband, Lord Ashdown, was one of the treasurers of the Party.

Sir Tony said: “Lillian did survive the bomb blast.

“I recall her describing how she was blown out of the bed towards the wall, which literally disintegrated as she reached it and she was blown through the wall, but miraculously survived. She eventually died peacefully of old age some years later.

“By and large, only ministers and senior party officials stayed at the Grand, which was the official conference HQ hotel.

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“Catherine and I were staying at the Old Ship because it was convenient, near, and in those days when party conferences were at seaside resorts like Blackpool or Brighton, had more of a holiday feel about them, which is also why we took Edd with us.”

In 1984 Sir Tony was no stranger to Brighton.

He spent four happy years at Sussex University in the late 1960s and early 1970s and one of the first elections he was involved in was the Hove by-election, when Tim Sainsbury was elected for the Conservatives in 1973.

  • The Grand Hotel will commemorate the anniversary with a minute’s silence at noon tomorrow


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