IT MAY not have been a fedora or a boater but Lord Paddy Ashdown enjoyed being presented with a hat... made of pastry.
The politician and former diplomat was in Wickham yesterday opening a new building at the Business Life Centre when he was surprised with the tasty headgear by local businessman and pasty-maker extraordinaire Rich Shaw.
Lord Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader, famously said that he would ‘eat his hat’ if he was wrong about the exit polls, which suggested a Tory win and a disastrous result for the Lib Dems, at the general election.
So when Mr Shaw, who runs Southwick Village Stores and came fourth in the World Pasty Championships earlier this year, heard about Lord Ashdown’s visit he whipped up a top hat made from his pasty pastry to present to him.
Luckily, Lord Ashdown saw the funny side and graciously accepted the hat and the joke to show his support for the entrepreneur and his local business.
He said: ‘You and The News will have to be a bit more original than that as I said I would eat one hat and I have already eaten that hat. But I will accept it to help a local business.’
Shortly after the election in May, David Dimbleby presented Lord Ashdown with a cake-shaped hat on BBC’s Question Time, of which Lord Ashdown took a bite, fulfilling his pledge.
Following the hat frivolity, Lord Ashdown was taken on a tour of the new building at the Business Life Centre and he made a presentation to the assembled crowd in which he sang the praises of small businesses and their importance in boosting the recovering economy.
Mayor of Winchester councillor Angela Clear, who is also the ward councillor for Wickham, helped Lord Ashdown unveil a plaque.
The Business Life Centre in Titchfield Lane is the brainchild of Kevin Winstanley, who turned the farm into a business centre, combining rural charm with hi-tech business.
Mr Winstanley, who is also the managing director of IT and telephony company ip-Xchange IT based at the business centre, spoke of his pride at seeing the last part of his plan come to fruition.
Since the centre’s opening seven years ago around 50 jobs have been created there by the 10 companies that are currently in residence.