A Letter from Nantwich

May 2008                                                                                                                                                       The BBC berated

Avalanche of paper in run-up to by-election        









Just a handful of the mock newspapers and magazines and straightforward letters pushed through my letter box in the week of the by-election.  (The picture has been "Photo Shopped" and carefully arranged to be fair all round.)

HARDLY a day went by in the weeks before the Crewe and Nantwich by-election without yet another piece of election correspondence dropping through the letterbox.

   There must be many fewer trees in the forests now, plus lots of empty ink cartridges for recycling, and not to mention the need to top-up campaign funds again.

   Still, we don't get a by-election all that often. In fact, I can't remember the last one in Nantwich or Crewe or Crewe and Nantwich. Regular visitors to this website will know that the one on May 22 was caused by the untimely death of a really good constituency (and House of Commons) MP, Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody. (See this panel).

   Following the trouncing that the Labour party suffered in the local government elections the other week, the last thing they wanted was a by-election. Not so soon after abolishing the 10p tax band. The "compensation" for those most affected, later this year, didn't seem to make amends for the axing in the minds of many voters.

   But the most memorable feature of the by-election has been, for me, the pseudo newspapers and even one miniature magazine with which the candidates have put over their message.

   The newspapers and magazine were obviously professionally produced, and to a high calibre, but


the impressive bit was the speed with which they were written, printed and distributed. Almost like a real newspaper . . . ! Not everything could have been produced weeks in advance. Especially when a row broke out about which of the three main candidates lived locally.

   Tamsin Dunwoody, daughter of Gwyneth, lived 175 miles from Crewe and Nantwich in South Wales. Edward Timpson (Conservative) was a resident of Kelsall (15 miles down the road) and worked in Chester. And last-minute Lib Dem candidate, Elizabeth Shenton, lives seven miles away at Clayton, near Newcastle, in the neighbouring county of Staffordshire. There was more, but I won't go into that now.

   As well as the almost-daily newspapers, there were telephone calls from the offices of the candidates, in one case followed up by a doorstep visit from another supporter seeking assurance that I would be voting for their candidate, followed up a day or so later by a member of that party asking if I would display a poster.

   I declined a poster and assured his colleague that of course I would be voting for their candidate - as I tell all the canvassers.

   The main parties also went to town on the size and impact of their posters. And there were many "big guns" from Parliament arriving in Crewe and Nantwich

to support their candidate. Except Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister - about which much was made.

   And because of the strong possibility perceived in many quarters that the safe Labour seat was about to go Conservative, there was much coverage in the national press and on national and local television.

   One thing that did annoy me was that for space and time reasons - I presume - the election was frequently referred to as The Crewe By-Election. Despite the fact that one Government Minister assured us that Nantwich was just as important as Crewe - "as Gwyneth Dunwoody always said".

   Full marks went, in my book, to the contributor to Radio 4's "Broadcasting House" miscellaneous news programme who insisted on referring to the Nantwich and Crewe by-election.

   It was amazing to see one of the "posher" newsreaders falling back on the glottal stop and talking about the "Crewe and Nan-wich by-election". Others did the same, but John Humphrys (Today programme, Radio 4), a Welshman, pronounced it correctly. (As did others, to be fair). Then again, he would be used to saying the Welsh word 'nant'.  [Nant = river valley; wich = salt. Therefore, Nantwich = the salt town in the river valley.]

   How nice it will be not to have to hear "Nan-wich" again - at least not until the General Election.

BBC berated over town name pronunciation

I KNEW that other people weren't happy about the references to Nan-wich, but I have just heard that a local person now living away from Nantwich rang the BBC to take issue with the mispronunciation on their broadcasts.

    A researcher who called her back was well in the firing line. She was told there were a lot of people annoyed and offended by the pronunciation of Nantwich. "There is a 't' in it," she said.


    Then she turned her attention to a comment that has been made on BBC television to the effect that Crewe and Nantwich had been held by Labour for 60 years. While Crewe is, indeed, a "Labour town", Nantwich was a Tory safe seat until the two constituencies were merged in 1983. Sir Robert Grant-Ferris was our man in Westminster.

    "Oh, I didn't know that," said the hapless researcher. "But you are a researcher, and


should do !" came the retort.   

 I didn't follow the by-election reports on ITV, but I understand that they had a similar problem with Nan-wich.

l2016 UPDATE: I made a similar complaint about a North West Tonight news programme when a presenter opted for the London-style pronunciation. A different presenter on the evening edition of the programme had no trouble with the correct pronunciation.


The result of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election


  Edward Timpson (Conservative) 20,539 (49.5% of the vote)

Tamsin Dunwoody (Labour) 12,679 (30.5%)

Elizabeth Shenton (Liberal Democrat) 6,040 (14.5%)

Mike Nattrass (UKIP) 922

Robert Smith (Green Party) 359

David Roberts (English Democrats) 275

The Flying Brick (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) 236

Mark Walklate (Independent) 217

Paul Thorogood (Cut Tax on Petrol and Diesel) 118

Gemma Garratt (Beauties for Britain) 113


Conservative majority: 7,860         Swing from Labour to Conservative: 17.6%

Turnout: 58.2%


MP dies after surgery


MRS Gwyneth Dunwoody, the Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich, died at the age of 77. At a public meeting over the First Responders changes (see this page), it was announced that she had undergone major heart surgery.

   At a council meeting, Cllr McGinnis [then Chairman of Nantwich Town Council] said: "Post operation, I understand she is doing very well. We all send our very best wishes."

   County Councillor Dorothy Flude (Crewe South) said at the public meeting that she was standing in for Mrs Dunwoody and gaining information for her.

   Mrs Dunwoody had been the MP for Crewe since 1974 and for Crewe and Nantwich since boundary changes in 1983.  She was elected with a 7,078 majority (polling 21,420 or 48.8% of the vote) in 2005.

l Her funeral took place at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, on May 8, 2008 and a memorial service at Nantwich Parish Church on June 9. See this page.

lThis picture was taken with permission from the M.P.'s website (now closed)..

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