The Bicycling Baronet

Newly selected North West Hampshire Conservative Parliamentary Candidate Kit Malthouse shares his thoughts with readers on cycling, Boris Johnson and the ‘Bicycling Baronet’  (seen cycling through Hyde Park to Parliament above).

As I hit the kerb and sailed over the handlebars of my bicycle last month, I pondered, in mid air, on the strangely prominent role that cyclists have played in my life over the past few years.

My wife is a purposeful cyclist. Early on in our relationship, her head was so high in the clouds (dizzy about me I presume), that when jolted out of her dreamy state, she hit the brakes too hard and vaulted over her handlebars. I rushed to comfort her – and insisted she buy a helmet – and our union was sealed.

For the last six years I have been working with possibly the most famous (and slowest) cyclist in Britain. Boris and I were elected at the same time in London and out of the blue, he asked me to be his Deputy Mayor, first running the Met Police and then on re-election giving me responsibility for Business and Enterprise.  Life has been more of a roller coaster than a bike ride ever since.

And now, happily, I have been chosen to stand for Parliament here in lovely North West Hampshire in place of the original “Bicycling Baronet” himself, Sir George Young MP.  Having seen Sir George in his rather fetching cycling shorts, I can understand why his 12-minute cycle (as he proudly boasts) from home to the office in Andover catches so many eyes!

As I landed on the pavement during my own dispute with gravity ripping the knee of my suit in the process, I recalled my RAF cadet training and executed what felt like several parachute rolls, landing flat on my back, spread-eagled. A passing jogger stopped and held out his hand, not to help me up it turned out, but to congratulate me on “quite the most spectacular dismount” he had ever seen.

And so it has been for the past month since I was selected. Many people at the events, fetes, flower shows and businesses I have visited have congratulated me on being given the chance to contest the general election here next year, but every one of them has used the same phrase: “You’ve got a hard act to follow!”

Sir George Young has been a truly brilliant servant of the people of North West Hants, helping thousands over the years to resolve their problems, all the while holding some of the most important jobs in government.  His is an example for all aspiring politicians and a daunting one for me.

The other thing that people have said to me about Sir George is that he always has time to talk, no matter who you are or what you want. As it happens, I also like to talk and equally to listen. So if you see me around the constituency over the coming months, on my bike or off it (hopefully not prone, though) please come and say hello – I want to know what you think. And if I win next May, to do my best to emulate Sir George’s outstanding example of public service.