By Jane Wenham-Jones
More than 100 people gathered at the Yarrow Hotel on Broadstairs last Sunday to meet the one-time Thanet MP and newly-ordained Jonathan Aitken.
The audience at the sell-out BroadstairsLit event enjoyed Prosecco and a cream tea before hearing from the Reverend about his time behind bars after being found guilty of perjury and his current work as a prison chaplain.
Reverend Jonathan Aitken, 77, who represented the then “Thanet East” (later South Thanet) constituency from 1974 to 1997, spoke of his fond memories of serving his constituents on the Isle and his years living in Sandwich.
“They were turbulent times,” he recalled, citing the miners’ strike and the activities of the IRA as particular areas of conflict.
In a wide-ranging discussion with local novelist and journalist Jane Wenham-Jones, Rev Aitken described his relationship with Margaret Thatcher on whom he has written a biography – including her displeasure when he ended his relationship with her daughter Carol – his role as Defence Minister and his subsequent fall from grace when he was convicted and sent to HMP Belmarsh.
He also took questions from the floor. Asked about the effects of his actions and subsequent sentence on his family, Rev Aitken said he had suffered from pride and arrogance and was “deeply sorry”. His twin daughters Victoria and Alexandra were with him at the event.
Rev Aitken spent the final months of his sentence in HMP Stanford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey, and it was some years later that he “heard God’s voice” telling him he should be ordained, which led to his current unpaid role as prison chaplain at Pentonville. The afternoon concluded with a book-signing arranged by Thanet Waterstones.
Festival director, Denise Martin-Harker, said she was delighted to end the BroadstairsLit calendar on such a high.
“We have had some wonderful guests this year at BroadstairsLit,” she said. “And we have an exciting line-up for 2020 too.” In her welcome speech she announced that all the authors already booked for next year were major Sunday Times best-sellers.
She said: “BroadstairsLit has gone from strength to strength and we are so grateful to our all our supporters and sponsors.”
Details of future events can be found on the BroadstairsLit website, where anyone joining the mailing list will be entered into an annual prize draw. This year’s winner, Maggie Evans, was presented with a book bundle donated by Harper Collins. Visit www.broadstairslit.co.uk