LETTER: Formidable pair

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Ben and June Clay - both former Mayors of Crawley - were probably the most formidable couple in the political life of Crawley.

Westminster itself - in the equally formidable shape of Dame Evelyn Sharp as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government - ‘locked horns’ with the political stalwarts of the town....and lost.

In 1962, the then Crawley Urban District Council (UDC) refused to take part in the Government’s Dispersal Scheme in which Crawley was designated a “reception” area for people in the event of a nuclear attack on London.

Dame Evelyn - whose working relationship with Minister Richard Crossman at the time was described as “turbulent” (and served as the model for Sir Humphrey and Jim Hacker in “Yes, Minister”) - was enraged and threatened dire consequences for Crawley UDC if the refusal to co-operate continued.

But the UDC - including Ben and June Clay - steadfastly refused to co-operate with an obviously unworkable scheme, as a 100-megaton bomb dropped on London would almost certainly incinerate the people of Crawley as well.

In 2004, Ben Clay said about the incident : “We might have dressed it up in various practical reasons, but the real reason we didn’t want it was that we were against nuclear weapons”.

The Government never implemented the Dispersal Scheme, and Crawley later became a “Nuclear-Free Zone” like Manchester.

Richard W Symonds, Ifield

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