Lord Tebbit's apology to local pub

WHEN the manager of a town centre pub noticed someone piling empty wine bottles onto its window ledges late one Sunday night he got a bit of a shock when he went outside to ask why he was doing it.

Jonathan Schofield

WHEN the manager of a town centre pub noticed someone piling empty wine bottles onto its window ledges late one Sunday night he got a bit of a shock when he went outside to ask why he was doing it.

As he drew closer he realised it was none other than Lord Tebbit, a formidable high-profile member of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in the 1980s when, as Employment Secretary, he was the scourge of the trade unions.

Joel Shepherd, 28, manager of the Queen's Head in Bury St Edmunds, said: “I was a bit surprised to say the least and I asked him what he was doing. He turned around and was clearly quite agitated, saying the bottles were obviously from the pub and he was returning them for us.”


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Mr Shepherd, who has managed the former coaching inn in Churchgate Street for the past four years, said he tried to explain that the bottles were not sold at his pub.

“It got a little tense so I invited him in to prove that we really were not responsible for the bottles, but at that point he clearly wasn't in the mood and didn't take up the offer,” he added.

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“The Chingford Skinhead”, as Lord Tebbit was often referred to by political opponents in the 1980s, recently moved into a Georgian house opposite the 300 year old pub, with his wife Margaret.

During an interview with the East Anglian Daily Times soon after moving to Suffolk, Lord Tebbit, 78, said he had been struck by the large number of coffee bars, tea shops and restaurants on their doorstep.

In an effort to stay on good terms Mr Shepherd wrote a letter to Lord Tebbit repeating that the bottles were not from the Queen's Head and offering to resolve the dispute over a beer at the pub.

Mr Shepherd, who admitted to being a fan of Lord Tebbit's politics, said: “I didn't expect to hear anything but I have to admit that what happened next only increased my respect for him. I received a personal letter with an apology on headed notepaper, admitting that he had got it wrong.”

A further surprise came when Lord Tebbit, a former Financial Times journalist and RAF pilot, visited Mr Shepherd to apologise, insisting he wanted to retain a good relationship with the pub.

Mr Shepherd added: “He said the day in question had been a difficult day for him as it was the 25th anniversary of the Brighton bombing (by the IRA in 1984) which left his wife with serious injuries and confined to a wheelchair.”

Lord Tebbit, who stood down as an MP in 1992 and was granted a life peerage, told the EADT that he accepted he had made a mistake and was in complete support of the Queen's Head.

He said: “I'm totally convinced that the bottles were not from the pub and were in fact from a supermarket. I made a mistake which I was happy to acknowledge and I hope to carry on with the good relationship we now have, and I may well soon take up that offer of a beer very soon.”

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