A book by Margaret Waterfield; the home she built in 1921 (right) and as it is today (bottom of page); Waterfield, below right.

books she published. Sandra cherishes these tomes.

Much has changed in the country and indeed Kent since the Howards were wed in the mid-1970s when she was a globe-trotting model and he a dashing young barrister, later Queen’s Counsel.

By the 1980s, the couple had married and had two children. Michael entered Westminster at the 1983 general election for the Folkestone & Hythe seat during Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s second term.

There followed junior ministerships, cabinet posts – including a controversial and sometimes unpopular stint as Home Secretary – various high-profile shadow portfolios out of government and eventually leadership of the Conservative Party. Although he did not win the 2005 general election, he is credited with turning a moribund party’s fortunes around and launching the career of David Cameron, his own one-time apprentice.

For a lad from modest Eastern European Jewish immigrant stock in Wales, he has had to climb higher and

harder than most of his well-heeled, privileged party peers. Friends say Cambridge-educated Michael has never shied from his background but nor has he sought to exploit it either.

Much has changed in the Garden of England and he was at the heart of one of its biggest developments.

He says: “By and large, I think the development in Kent has been for the good of the county. The big thing in my constituency was the building and opening of the Channel Tunnel and I worked very hard to get the layout of it changed so that it might be easier for people to come off the motorway

For Sandra, in Kent, there is a sense of belonging after a childhood displaced by her father’s RAF career and her own as the globe-trotting model, Sandra Paul. (She casually tosses in how she posed for Terence Donovan in Paris when the Sunday Times magazine went colour.)

‘The thing I really loved about being around here is that when I open the local paper, I know the people in it. It’s a sense of belonging...’

and stop at Folkestone. People haven’t done that as much as I would have liked them to.

“I also secured an advantageous arrangement for people living in the villages of Newington and Peene, near to the Tunnel, to be properly compensated, so their house price values would be protected.”

The big change in recent times has been the influence of Roger De Haan, who sold Saga for a reported £1bn plus fee and pledged to regenerate the harbour area and town centre as a regional arts hub.

Progress has been slow since Mr De Haan purchased a large section of seafront land from the (now late) property developer Jimmy Godden in 2006, not least because of the financial crash two years later and issues in finding the right house-building plan to suit the area.

“What Roger De Haan is doing bit by bit has been transforming Folkestone. If you see what is happening on the Harbour Arm and around the town, it has been for the good.”

8 Mid Kent Living 8 Mid Kent Living

One also gets the impression that this is a haven where they spent time together, as a couple, after a lifetime in the limelight. Cinema at Ashford or walks to Dymchurch can be as exciting as it gets.

Quite excitedly, she says: “The thing I really loved about being around here is that when I open the Herald I know the people in it. It’s a sense of belonging.

“I suppose I never had that before because I moved around so much in my childhood and even when I settled in London, during my modelling career, I was constantly on the move.”

Her career as a novelist – a successful one at that – and Michael’s business interests, work at the House of Lords and as chairman of the charity umbrella organisation Hopsice UK, neither would describe themselves as retired.

After tearing himself away from politics’ frontline, Michael had wanted to get involved in the charity, Kids Company – headed up by its controversial founder Camila Batmanghelidjh – before it collapsed in a hail of negative headlines in the summer of 2015.

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