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By Tim Montgomerie
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Ken Hargeaves MBE died yesterday after a long battle with cancer, aged 73.
Ken Hargreaves was Tory MP for Hyndburn from 1983 to 1992. This Lancashire seat leans towards the Left but Ken won it during Margaret Thatcher's two landslide elections. His winning margin was just 21 votes on one occasion. The votes had to be counted a record-breaking SIX times before eventually Labour conceded that the impossible had happened and they'd lost this heartland constituency. Ken, however, never felt 100% comfortable with the Iron Lady upon whose coat-tails he was partly elected. He was a one nation Tory who was as mild in manner as Margaret Thatcher was robust. At the end of the 1980s there was some speculation that he might leave the Tory Party and form a new Christian-inspired party with his friend and then Liberal MP, David Alton. That never happened – partly because John Major became Tory leader in 1990 and Ken was more comfortable with the classless, "nation at ease" philiosophy of the new Prime Minister.
Ken will be most associated with his Christian campaigning – particularly on abortion and euthanasia. But he was also one of the driving forces behind the creation of the National Lottery. He worried that if Britain didn't introduce its own lottery then Britons would play versions owned and run from overseas. A UK Lottery was, he thought essential, if good causes were to benefit in the way that has transpired. After his defeat in 1992 he ran the Association of Conservative Clubs for a period and continued to support the local and Catholic causes that mattered so much to him.
I will always remember him as one of the kindest and gentlest Conservative MPs I've ever met. I volunteered for him for two weeks in, I think, 1991. I was a student at the time and living in Preston in the holidays and journeyed to his seat to deliver leaflets and accompany him on constituency business. He was hugely popular with local people. I vote Ken, not Tory, was a common observation from people on the doorstep. He lived in the most modest of houses in the town of Oswaldtwistle. It hardly had any decorations and only one bedroom. When one evening I stayed overnight with this single man – because of a late-running event – he insisted I had his bed while he slept on the living room sofa. Few other MPs would ever have done that. He remained loyal to his seat to the end – opposing the parliamentary boundary changes turned out to be one of his last political interventions.
Shortly before he died he was honoured with the Knighthood of St Gregory by the Pope because of his pro-life campaigning and his local service. The photo below comes from the Lancashire Telegraph from earlier this month:
Lord Alton, Ken Hargreaves and his parish priest Father John Daly of St Mary's, Oswaldtwistle.
Ann Widdecombe was a long-standing friend of Ken's and she sent this message to ConHome in tribute to him:
"Ken was a modest man of mighty tenacity and integrity. We will miss him but I bet they all cheered when he entered Heaven's gate!"