For someone who spent five decades walking the hallowed corridors of power at Westminster, Sir Peter Tapsell was rarely happier than when relaxing in his ‘local’ - the Ebrington Arms in Kirkby on Bain (writes John Fieldhouse).
A Friday lunchtime and he would normally occupy a corner table with his devoted wife Gabrielle and a close circle of friends. And no, I was never invited.
His favourite item on the menu? Homemade steak pie.
That sums up Sir Peter’s traditional, no frills approach to life in general - and to politics.
He was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and a much travelled person - particularly in the Middle East.
He and his wife had a residence in Switzerland, but he loved being at home in Roughton, and in his constituency, where he was a revered and respected figure... and not just in the eyes of local Conservatives either.
For many years, his only link with the Louth Leader and Horncastle News was via typed letters... never an email, never a phone call. Tweet? He’d have had you thrown in the Tower!
He would write essays on troubles in the Middle East, or the financial plight of a country that would have earned you praise on ‘Pointless.’
But, expect Sir Peter to write about local issues, be it potholes or the NHS, and you were disappointed. Within days of starting at the Horncastle News, I asked the then editor why we didn’t speak to Sir Peter regularly. “Waste of time” I was told. “He never speaks to the Press”
Apart from a very select few journalists in the national press, Sir Peter rarely gave interviews. The suggestion of an appearance on Question Time would have amused him.
Not that he wouldn’t have been good value. Whether tackling Margaret Thatcher in her pomp or berating some fellow backbencher or other, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.
He was a Eurosceptic. Quite what he would have made of the Brexit fiasco is anyone’s guess.
I did attend one of his surgeries in Horncastle. Sir Peter knew I was there, kept me waiting two hours, and then donned his overcoat and attempted to dash away. I convinced him to give me five minutes, but he answered every question the same - ‘it is a matter for local politicians, not an MP’. I kept chipping away at that granite-like exterior and eventually, Sir Peter did relent (a little), but he was never exactly happy talking to the media.
During a visit to a school farm in Horncastle, I asked him whether rumours he was about to retire were correct.
He smiled, pointed me in the direction of a donkey and said: “You’ll get a better answer out of him!”
Difficult? Yes. Old fashioned? Undoubtedly. Opinionated? Definitely. But, he helped countless constituents, and never sought publicity.
RIP Sir Peter. You will be missed.