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Former NASUWT leader Nigel de Gruchy stands as Labour candidate

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Despite swearing that he would never seek another public office, former NASUWT general secretary Nigel de Gruchy is standing as Labour’s candidate for Orpington in next week’s election.

At 72, Mr de Gruchy believes he is the oldest first-time candidate to stand in the 2015 general election.

The former union leader, who ran the NASUWT for 12 years until he retired in 2002, battled with some of the Conservative Party’s biggest grandees including Sir John Major, Sir Keith Joseph and Lord Baker.

 Mr de Gruchy is unlikely to emerge victorious in his latest clash with the Conservatives. The incumbent MP for Orpington is Jo Johnson (brother of London mayor Boris Johnson), who secured 59 per cent of the vote in 2010.

But the Labour activist felt it was worth stepping out of retirement for one last time, appealing to voters who are undecided ahead of polling day next Thursday.

“We were hoping a young, ambitious activist would step forward but they never did, so I was voted in to stand for the party as I was the most qualified,” Mr de Gruchy told TES. “I said when I retired that I would never again stand for an elected office, but here I am.   

“Bromley Council has shoved most of its schools to private providers and we want to offer voters an alternative. In all honesty, we have been focusing nearly all of our efforts on Croydon Central, which is a key marginal seat.”

Mr de Gruchy was well-known for his courting of the press as leader of the NASUWT, which swelled the union’s membership numbers during his time at the helm. He also gained a reputation as a staunch supporter of teachers' rights. 

Speaking to TES when he announced his retirement back in 2002, he said he had set up an ISDN line in both the NASUWT offices and his home so that he would be the teachers' leader with the clearest telephone link when speaking to radio stations.

"It also meant I could do the Today programme in my pyjamas," he said at the time. 

It was this background that led to him being voted in to stand for Labour. “I obviously have a lot of experience dealing with both national and local environments. Hopefully, we can improve the vote for Labour.” 

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