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Locking out MP ‘helped win airport deal’, jokes Andrew Gurr

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If you want to win favour in the corridors of power, it seems, the thing to do is to get a Member of Parliament well-oiled, and then make him sleep in the garden.

It worked for Andrew Gurr, who did just that to his house guest on St Helena, Tory MP Mark Lancaster  – as reported here two weeks ago

“I suspect that locking Mark out of Plantation House did more to secure the airport than most other things,” the former governor tells St Helena Online.

“On all my subsequent visits to Westminster to lobby, I was heralded as the bloke who locked Mark out!”

Mr Lancaster, who visited the island to investigate the case for building an airport, told this site how he returned from a tour of Jamestown watering holes to find Governor Gurr had bolted the door shut.

“I am quite relaxed about the whole affair, as was Mark,” says Mr Gurr.

“I had been in hospital that morning for a biopsy under anaesthetic and was advised to rest for 24 hours. I felt I had to host a dinner for Mark that evening and did so.

“After the dinner Mark asked if he could see the ‘night life’ in Jamestown. In my post-operative state I didn’t fancy attempting such a visit and I did assure him that such night life was not quite what London may have to offer.

“It was Sharon Wainwright [the island’s air access co-ordinator] who offered to take him.

“Jean [Gurr] dutifully asked me if I had left the door unlocked and I replied that I had, but it has two locks and I had automatically turned one.”

The night was well advanced by the time Sharon delivered her charge back to the governor’s mansion, with a key to Plantation in his pocket.

“She duly delivered him to our driveway in the early hours of the morning but failed to check that he could open the door.”

Mr Lancaster, a soldier who once spent his parliamentary holiday on active service in Afghanistan, gallantly chose to sleep on a bench in the garden rather than wake his host.

Columnist Vince Thompson was first to write about the incident in the St Helena Independent in March 2012, but without revealing the name of the culprit.Mr Gurr’s hidden hand in the affair only emerged after International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell joked about it in a talk  in the UK.

By chance, while Mr Mitchell was regaling islanders in Swindolena, Mr Gurr was admitting to his actions in a talk to the Friends of St Helena, taking place at the same time just 30 miles away in Oxford.

He described the MP’s visit – and the lock-out – as one of the highlights of his four years as governor.

On other episodes, sadly, “one cannot say anything,” laments Mr Gurr. “That is one of the reasons I don’t feel I can write a book as I did about the Falklands – a governor actually knows too much!”

The truth about MP who slept rough in the governor’s garden
AUDIO: DfID Secretary on island’s “brilliant opportunity” (including Mark Lancaster story)

Friends of St Helena

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