John Hemming-Clark:The only individual to have stood in Council, London Assembly, Parliamentary By- and General Election – and won in none of them.
I was born John Stanley [father's name] David [born on St David's Day] Clark in Woking Maternity Hospital that subsequently, rather appropriately, became a family planning clinic. I gained the Charles [family name] and Hemming [mother's maiden name] bits later on. I grew up in Crockenhill, Kent where my father was the local vicar. I moved to Bickley, then Bromley, before settling in Chislehurst, Kent when I married. I have lived on the same corner (in three different houses!) of Chislehurst since 1988 including a spell at 5 Holbrook Lane, the childhood home of Alan Watts.
I managed two years at Crockenhill C P Primary School where the headmaster was the father of Nicholas “Topper” Headon who was also a pupil at the school and who went on to become a drummer in The Clash. I then attended Sevenoaks Preparatory School and studied alongside Paul Downton who subsequently became a Kent and England wicket-keeper. I then moved to King’s School, Rochester and was in the same class as Radio 1 D J Pete Tong. Whilst I was "I'm with the disco" to gatecrash private parties in Meopham with fellow DJ Steve Harris, Pete was already playing the Woodville Halls in Gravesend and, whilst in the sixth form at King's, Pete came into school one morning having, aged just 17, come second in a nationwide DJing competition sponsored by the Tea Council and judged by David "Kid" Jensen. I've no idea why I remember this, nor do I know who came first!
After school I worked for Barclays Bank, rising to the dizzy heights of cashier at Swanley branch before being promptly moved to Gravesend branch as Swanley branch was home to many nearby Crockenhill residents’ accounts. The branch manager said that I would have to move as too many customers were complaining that I was able to see how much money they had, “not that any of them have much,” he rather arrogantly added. I ended my Barclays’ days working part-time at the staff training centre and as a junior loans’ officer in Gravesend branch. I left after, following a rearrangement of holiday rotas, I had to take my summer holiday in November.
I then worked in London at London Interstate Bank, Banco de Sabadell and State Bank of South Australia. This latter bank went spectacularly bust after I left in 1988 to concentrate on working self-employed as a publisher of Bank League Tables.
Through a rather tenuous connection I found myself playing the part of Antonia de Sancha's husband in "The Pieman," a very-low budget film intended to launch the career of an aspiring producer. However, due to its notoriety it played its part in the downfall of cabinet minister David Mellor.
In 2006, deeply dissatisfied with the seemingly inexorable rise in Council Tax, I stood for election as an Independent on 4th May as a Councillor with the London Borough of Bromley. Despite applying to stand at the last available day for nominations to be submitted, I gained 903 votes, more than all the candidates in the Chislehurst ward where I stood for one of three seats, beaten by only the three Conservative candidates.
Just two weeks after this election, Eric Forth, the Member of Parliament for Bromley and Chislehurst, died and a by-election was held on 29th June. Encouraged by my local council performance I stood, again as an Independent. I gained just 442 votes, which, with the 2,347 that Nigel Farage gained for UKIP – putting them in third place, could have been enough, some suggested, if Farage and I hadn’t stood, for the Liberal Democrat candidate to have beaten Bob Neill, the Conservative candidate, who, in the end, won by just 633 votes. Labour came fourth, only the second time that Labour had fallen to fourth in an English by-election since the Second World War. I was outgunned by big (and by-election) party politics. A new approach was needed.
By 2008 I had formed a political party, Independents to Save Queen Mary’s Hospital, and was campaigning against the imminent closure of units, including accident and emergency, and consultant-led maternity, amongst others, at my local hospital in Sidcup. In that year, I stood in the London Assembly election, in the Bexley & Bromley constituency, representing Independents to Save Queen Mary’s Hospital. I gained 6,684 votes. However, the winner, James Cleverly, who was standing for the Conservatives, gained a record 105,162 votes.
In May 2010 I stood once again for election as a Councillor with the London Borough of Bromley, this time representing Independents to Save Queen Mary’s Hospital. I gained 1,371 votes. With a relatively high turnout due to the General Election being held on the same day I was not only beaten once more by the three Conservative candidates, but also by two of the three Liberal Democrats. On the same day I also stood, again as a candidate for Independents to Save Queen Mary’s Hospital, in the General Election in Old Bexley and Sidcup constituency. This constituency included Queen Mary’s Hospital. I stood against the Conservative candidate James Brokenshire who was also campaigning to halt the closures at the hospital. In that year’s Conservative party manifesto it stated, if elected, the Conservatives would, “...stop the forced closure of a & e and maternity wards...” Just days before the election, Brokenshire circulated an email to the local press. It came from Andrew Lansley, who had been the shadow health secretary and stated that, if elected, the Conservatives would stop and closures at Queen Mary’s. This was enough to secure Brokenshire’s election and I gained just 393 votes. After the election the hospital started to lose the units that the Conservatives had said that they would keep. The Conservatives then said that they could not be bound by pre-election pledges a comment which makes a mockery of party manifestos. Later on they blamed the closures on the fact that they were in a coalition, despite the Liberal Democrats being against the closures also.
During the time that I was actively campaigning with Independents to Save Queen Mary’s Hospital, I had been invited to seek election as Chairman of the executive committee of 5th Chislehurst Scout Group where my son was a cub. I was subsequently asked to consider becoming a Scout Leader in this growing group, a role which I took up after my general election defeat.
Over the course of the next few years I started to make notes on the amusing things that the scouts said or did. Normally every meeting threw up a humorous incident or conversation. Conversations with other scout leaders also became a rich seam to be tapped, and in 2013 I started work on putting this material into a book. “In You Go! A year or two in the life of a scout leader” was the result. It was published in 2014 and has been in print ever since with revisions and a reprint in 2016. "1000 Fantastic Scout Games" was published in 2016. The follow-up to "In You Go!" - "Sleeping Bags & Tortures. The Private Diaries of an Adventurous Scout and his Scout Leader" was published in 2016.
In the summer of 2016 I suffered a physical illness which severely incapacitated me for several months and led to a thorough reassessment of my life journey. One result of this reassessment was the writing of nine short stories that have begun, in 2017, to be published under the series title of "The Adventures of Horace Horrise." Horace Horrise is quickly establishing himself as a brand, with badges also available and mugs in preparation.
I am married with two children.