Sunday, May 15, 2011

President stands down as K&A Canal Trust considers its future

As the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust consults with its members about its future following its recent dramatic change in fortunes its President, former Devizes MP Michael Ancram, has decided to step down after being at the head of the organisation for two years after taking over from his former Conservative Party MP colleague, Sir Anthony Durant in 2009.

Michael Ancram, left with Wadworths Brewery Boss, Charles Bartholomew and the BW K&A Waterway Manager, Ian Jarvis
aboard the Trust workboat, Avon Vale as they set off from Devizes Wharf to deliver a special beer to the Bridge Inn at Horton
to celebrate the K&A's 200th Anniversary last year.  
Picture by Bob Naylor© 

Michael Ancram who is the 13th Marquess of Lothian was MP for Devizes from 1992 until he stood down at the last General Election. Before winning the seat in Wiltshire he had contested, won and lost seats in Scotland.

He was educated at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire and then went on to Christ Church, Oxford (BA History 1966, MA) and then the University of Edinburgh (LLB 1968).

He was called to the Scottish bar in 1970 and practised as an advocate until 1979 and he became a Queen's Counsel in 1996.

He was Chairman of the Conservative Party from October 1998 to September 2001.
In 2001, he stood unsuccessfully against Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Portillo, Kenneth Clarke and David Davis for the leadership of the Conservative Party, after which he was made Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by Duncan Smith.

In 2005 he failed in a leadership bid against David Cameron and after that he stood down from the Shadow Cabinet. He was made a life peer in October 2010 with the title Baron Kerr of Monteviot.

“Posh, charming - but with a touch of ruthlessness - he seems to embody the charm of the British aristocracy without its snobbishness or aloofness” said Stephen Castle in The Independent on Sunday. He is known to many of his friends as Crum, a nickname he got in the 1960s when on arrival at a function he introduced himself as "Lord Ancram" and was duly announced as "Mr Norman Crum".

He is an enthusiastic musician and his rendition of the Ralph McTell song, Streets of London, accompanying himself on the 12 string guitar has delighted audiences at Conservative Party conferences and events in his Devizes Constituency. His extensive folk music repertoire comes from a time when as a student he spent a holiday busking in the South of France.

Michael Ancram came out of the MP’s expenses episode relatively unscathed, although he did hit the headlines briefly with the Daily Telegraph running the headline “Taxpayer charged for Michael Ancram’s pool” when it emerged that he had charged £98.58 for the servicing of his swimming pool boiler.

He agreed to pay that money back but he insisted that his claims for £1,117.43 for “cleaning up moss etc” on his canalside home in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, £3,000 a year cleaning costs and more than £1,250 for gardening cannot be considered extravagant or luxurious. He said: “I have always made sure that I did not claim for anything which enhanced the property.”

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