POLITICAL stalwart Ron Atkins has become the oldest ex MP in the country. Sarah Fielden spoke to the 98-year-old about his achievements, and the secret to a long and healthy life.
“MY happiest achievement was to be elected as a Member of Parliament for Preston”.
Of all Ron Atkins’ accolades, the 98-year-old can never be separated from politics.
He represented Preston North in Parliament, and was later the oldest councillor on Preston Council when he stepped down in 2010.
The former Labour MP has now been given the “dubious” honour of becoming the oldest living ex MP, following the death of John Freeman.
Modestly, he says: “There’s too much fuss made about it, there’s a lot of people my age. I’m wondering why they single out ex MPs.
“They say the devil looks after his own.”
Ron, married to Preston Labour councillor Elizabeth Atkins, says: “To be more serious, I haven’t smoked since I was 12 - I smoked when I was 12 but we got caught and got into trouble.
“I drink not very much at all, wine from time to time. I watch my diet, I’ve always been careful about eating nutritious meals, and I do take food supplements.
“And people are kind to me. And I haven’t been assassinated.
“Elizabeth is looking after me very well indeed.
“And I’ve got a dog as well, a rescue dog, who now is rescuing me.”
Ron, who grew up in South Wales, says he works hard to keep his mind active, and reads the Financial Times every day.
He says: “Unlike other MPs, when I was defeated by another Atkins I stayed in the town because I liked the people here.
“I’m almost a Prestonian now. I moved when I was in my 30s to East Anglia where I didn’t find the people nearly so friendly.” He says he has many fond memories, especially of election night, but says: “I was very unhappy to lose by 29 votes.
“I have lots of fond memories and it’s difficult to single one out, but I’ve certainly been happy in Preston and I haven’t wanted to live anywhere else.
“The Preston people are very much like the South Wales people, they are working people.
“What interested me about coming to Preston in particular was women were more independent and self sufficient.
“The legacy of the mills, they had their own money and they didn’t have to rely on unreliable males.
“There’s a great camaraderie feeling in Preston, especially in politics, and there is friendships between the parties because they believe they have the same purpose - to do the best for the community.”
Ron’s wife Elizabeth first met him when she was 16, then met him again about seven years ago.
She says: “I wonder if me being around and irritating Ron may be keeping him going!
“Politics is his life, you can’t separate Ron from politics.
“He’s done all sorts of amazing things, there are tonnes of things in Preston that are down to Ron.
“When I met him later I thought it was like doing intellectual keep fit with him.
“He doesn’t let you get away with saying something lazy or not thought out.
“It’s been a fantastic education for me - it’s made me think much more carefully.
“I think I did before but not to the level I did once I met Ron.”