sport

Former Chester MP Gyles Brandreth: 'Football club gaffe sealed my electoral fate'

Brandreth recalls embarrassing moment on 1997 campaign trail when he didn't know where Chester City's stadium was

Former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth and his wife visit a polling station in Chester in 1997(Image: Chester Chronicle)

It is almost 20 years to the day since Gyles Brandreth was ousted as MP for Chester.

Having served as the city’s Member of Parliament for five years, Conservative Brandreth was defeated by Labour’s Christine Russell in the 1997 election when Tony Blair stormed to power.

And as MPs up and down the country ready themselves to hit the campaign trail for the snap General Election on June 8, Brandreth has recalled the moment when, followed by a television crew and Jeremy Vine, he travelled to attend a Chester City match at the Deva Stadium, realising to his horror en route that he had no idea where the football ground was.

“I do recall being out on the stump with Jeremy Vine from Newsnight following me with a crew,” he told the BBC’s former political editor Nick Robinson on Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I had been invited to go to the local football club and I said ‘let’s go to the football club’ and then I realised I didn’t know where it was. In my own constituency I didn’t know where the football ground was.

Former Conservative MP for the City of Chester Gyles Brandreth campaigning with Rt Hon Michael Howard MP in the city in 1997(Image: Chester Chronicle)

“And so I had the Newsnight team following me as I went down one street after another pathetically trying to look for my own football club having boasted how well I supported the team!”

The wave of support for Blair’s New Labour in 1997 saw swings up and down the country as the nation took to the polls on May 1, and Brandreth, who succeeded fellow Conservative Peter Morrison in 1992, was one of many Tory casualties that evening.

Russell won the city’s seat in convincing fashion with 53% of the vote (29,806) compared to Brandreth’s 34.2% (19,253), although Brandreth claims he already knew his ‘electoral fate was sealed’ after his frosty reception from Blues fans after eventually finding his way to the ground.

“I arrived at the ground 30 minutes late, just as the match was about to start, and contrived to come up into the stands on the visitors’ side of the stadium,” he revealed in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

“My arrival was announced by the match commentator and greeted with justified jeering from a thousand scornful Chester fans. It was at that moment that I realised my electoral fate was sealed.”

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