MP to step down after forty years
TONBRIDGE MP Sir John Stanley has announced his retirement, bringing down the curtain on four decades of service.
The Conservative politician, who has served under seven Prime Ministers since he was first elected in 1974, has decided not to stand at the next General Election, due in May 2015.
He said: "That will be the right time for me to hang up my boots."
Sir John, 70, will have notched up 41 years' continuous service when he stands down, making him the 11th longest-serving post-war MP.
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Tributes have been paid this week by those who have worked with him on local campaigns over the years.
Sir John spent more than two decades fighting on behalf of the Tonbridge Cottage Hospital, and secretary of the League of Friends Rena Pope said she "couldn't have asked for a better MP".
"He was absolutely wonderful on every occasion," she said.
"He really cares about his constituents and always answers letters.
"If you have got a query, he will look into it."
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council's deputy leader Owen Baldock said: "I greatly admire his tenacity and absolute dedication to improving the lives of local people.
"I am sure Sir John will be greatly missed by all who have had the pleasure of working with him over the years."
Speaking to the Courier this week, Sir John said representing the people of Tonbridge had been the "greatest privilege".
He added: "In my constituency at Tonbridge and Malling, I have found people are very fair, and absolutely prepared to judge their own individual MP on his or her merits.
"The top priority in my life for the last 40 years is that I've always said I am going to try and provide you with a personal service.
"I am not going to leave the letters to my staff."
Sir John's notable achievements included serving as parliamentary private secretary to Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s and, later, playing an instrumental role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Speaking about today's Government, Sir John said the country's decision-makers should be more disciplined by concentrating on fewer bills.
He listed the high points of his Commons career as saving local schools from closure, including Weald of Kent Grammar School.
He pledged to continue fighting for the A21 widening and improved rail services during the remainder of his tenure as MP for Tonbridge and Malling.
Four decades as MP: p 6-7