If you were a font bench Tory MP, a former minister or someone who might make the national papers, you can be guaranteed a pretty decent turnout for your funeral. So it is a shame that so few Tory MP's bothered to turn up today to the funeral of Sir Ralph Howell, former Conservative MP for North Norfolk.
According to my sources just one Tory MP turned up (Henry Bellingham) matching the presence of Norman Lamb (Lib Dem). Despite the fact that Sir Ralph Howell lived in Dereham (Mid Norfolk) and represented large parts of what will become the new Broadland and Mid Norfolk seats, my spies tell me they did not see Keith Simpson, the current MP for these areas (and the MP for Dereham where the funeral took place). I would love to be corrected on this issue if anyone knows if Keith Simpson was actually there. Even Iain Dale went, according to his blog, so if a former candidate can make it, surely more local MP's might have bothered ?
So it seems that provincial MP's who serve their party loyally for decades, but never make the front benches really don't count very much in David Cameron's Tory Party.
I never met Ralph Howell, but there was a genuine affection in North Norfolk for the way he stood up for North Norfolk and Norfolk in general. I remember well in 1993 when even Tories in North Norfolk were telling me that Sir Ralph had just days to live. Typically of North Norfolk Tories, they were wrong, and he went on to serve as North Norfolk's MP for another four years. I was not always a fan of his politics, but I applaud any MP who has a real resonance with the electorate which transcends party politics. Sir Ralph had this and that is why the Tories should remember him.