Those of us who enjoy the daily challenge of unravelling the mysteries of local politics – and chronicling indiscretions, absurdities, occasional malevolence but above all the uncertainties of political power and influence – will be satisfied by the outcome of a meeting in Huntingdon yesterday. In a sentence, Huntingdon Conservative Association adopted Benjamin Obese-Jecty as their Parliamentary candidate for the next General Election.
It is a fascinating choice; the constituency association having voted back in April to bid goodbye to Jonathan Djanogly who had hoped for automatic re-adoption by his constituency’s selection committee having served as the MP since John Major’s retirement 22 years ago.
Djanogly lost the vote, sources claimed, by the relatively tight margin of 9-12 but out he was, and the obligatory “I am grateful to the tens of thousands of voters who have consistently put their faith in me at the ballot box” quickly followed.
But boundary changes, and a new seat of St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire in place with Huntingdon adopting parts of NW Cambridgeshire, the opportunity for change was duly noted and acted upon.
And the hunt for a new candidate has thrown up Benjamin Obese-Jecty, whose political ‘teeth’ were sharpened in 2019 when he unsuccessfully stood in Hackney North and Stoke Newington against the incumbent Diane Abbott, who had held the seat for Labour since 1987.
Ms Abbott’s political fortunes are for another day maybe (she was suspended from the Labour Party earlier this year for a letter she wrote about racism and now serves as an Independent) but for Mr Obese-Jecty the future is Cambridgeshire.
“It’s a huge honour to have been selected as the prospective Parliamentary candidate for Huntingdon,” he tweeted last night. “My thanks to the association for putting their faith in me. “I can’t wait to get started on the campaign.”
Benjamin Obese-Jecty has that inner belief of being destined for the pinnacle of power – well if that’s how you continue to regard becoming an MP. His own website trumpets ‘Conservative Campaigner & Former Prospective Parliamentary Candidate’ which no doubt will be refreshed within days, if not hours.
He’s where he’s always wanted to be – taking on a (supposed) safe chunk of rural England which traditionally opts to vote for his party. He may, of course, be thwarted in that ambition -who would have predicted his party’s demise in the local elections that saw Mr Djanogly’s former office gofer Cllr Ryan Fuller lose not only his seat on Huntingdonshire District Council but the remunerative imperative of a decent bundle of allowances.
(If you recall Huntingdonshire District Council elections in May 2022 ended five decades of Conservative rule on Huntingdonshire District Council which is now run by a cross-party alliance of councillors, led by Liberal Democrat Sarah Conboy).
So, who is Benjamin Obese-Jecty?
His publicly stated credentials emphasise his military background (more of that shortly) and in passing we learn his work these days is in finance.
“Following my service I moved to the private sector,” he says on his website. “I have worked in financial services continuously since leaving the British Army and have worked with both US and UK banking institutions across a wide range of aspects.”
No mention here though of a small, limited company of which he was once a director Quarterbank Punk Ltd which was struck off Companies House in 2016 after a five-year run. It didn’t seem to do much but mentioned here simply because its title alone suggests a sense of humour at the very least was in play when it was formed.
We learn from Benjamin himself that after leaving university he joined the British Army in 2004. He was commissioned by the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and became an infantry officer and served in Iraq and Afghanistan
“I served in Sangin on Operation Herrick 11, a difficult tour that saw our battlegroup sustain significant casualties over a protracted period,” he says.
Benjamin was an officer in the 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), now The Royal Yorkshire Regiment, spending nine years in the infantry.
“My time in the Army was characterised by the high tempo of operations experienced by the UK military over the past two decades,” he says.
“I volunteered for service as a Battle Casualty Replacement in Basra, Iraq, deploying at short notice and conducting dismounted counter-insurgency patrols, suspect vehicle interdictions and arrest operations in the north of the city and out towards the Iranian border only three months after completing my training.
“On my next operational tour, I was selected to serve as part of a mentoring team embedded with the Afghan National Army in Sangin, Afghanistan. My time in Helmand Province was eye-opening, experiencing both the complexity of a Battlegroup under siege and the intensity of dismounted close combat with an agile foe who used the civilian population as both camouflage and collateral.
“My service in the Army has been the catalyst behind my decision to serve in a political capacity.”
But there is a campaigning, and in many ways an attractive and politically neutral, stance in some of his work, particularly in respect of rooting our racism.
Speaking to Newsweek magazine last year he said of the 2019 election campaign that “I genuinely hadn’t considered I would receive so much abuse based on the colour of my skin. As a child living in a predominantly white area of England during the ’80s, I did occasionally receive racist abuse from other children. But for most of my adult life, I could count the number of times I experienced racism on one hand”.
He told Newsweek: “I believe there is a school of thought among some prominent left-wing campaigners that, despite the increasing number of senior Conservative MPs with ethnic minority backgrounds, the party is racist.
“This is a view exacerbated by some left-wing campaigners online, and the trolls I generally receive abuse from. The slurs I receive generally fit into one of about twenty formats. On the softer end of the scale, I regularly get referred to as a “token” or a “sell out.” I sometimes get referred to as a “coconut” or as a “c**n.”
“I get called a “house n*****” in reference to 19th century slaves who were given preferential treatment because they were willing to suck up to the white plantation owner. I’m also sent images of enslaved black characters from popular culture. Once, I was sent a GIF of daffy duck tap dancing, to illustrate that I exist purely for entertainment of white people and am not to be taken seriously.”
But Ben is determined to hang in there and fight.
“If anything, it reaffirms my beliefs and makes me more committed to stand up for what I believe is right. I’m more than happy to fight, and die, on this hill on behalf of all the other people who receive this kind of abuse,” he told Newsweek.
And on his website, he adds this: “The experience of standing as a candidate in a General Election was formative and has inspired me to continue to pursue a political career.”
untingdon Conservatives select
Huntingdon Conservatives adopt Ben Obese-Jecty as the prospective Parliamentary candidate. The seat was once held by Sir John Major who with his wife Norma attended the selection committee. In his day it was safest Tory seat in the country. Jonathan Djanogly’s majority was 19k in 2019, but the party lost control of Hunts DC in 2022, for the first time since 1976.
MP & PM John Major and his wife Norma – in the centre of the picture – welcome the selection of Ben Obese-Jecty as Conservative candidate for the seat which, in Major’s day, had the highest Tory majority in the kingdom.
t’s a huge honour to have been selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Huntingdon. My thanks to the Association for putting their faith in me. I can’t wait to get started on the campaign.
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