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Beard today, gone tomorrow

MP James Arbuthnot is in for a close shave — but will still come out of it at least £10,000 up.

MP James Arbuthnot is in for a close shave — but will still come out of it at least £10,000 up.

Mr Arbuthnot is already guaranteed the massive charity pay-out after growing his beard for 90 days but will now raise even more by undergoing a sponsored shave.

The Tory MP will allow his prized beard to be cut off before a charity cricket match in Odiham on Sunday June 15.

The money-spinning charity stunt started in December when Mr Arbuthnot invited Lord Ashcroft to dinner at his home.

"We were talking about beards and he said he would give me £10,000 if I grew one for 90 days," said Mr Arbuthnot.

"It's now been growing for a lot longer but I've been waiting for a suitable event to have it shaved off."

Mr Arbuthnot will go under the knife before Odiham Cricket Club plays the charity friendly match.

But the former defence minister admits he will be sad to see the beard go.

"I'm now completely used to it," he said.

"My wife likes it but my agent loathes it, so I have now come up with a solution that will please both.

"To keep my agent happy I will shave it off and to keep my wife happy I can say that there is a chance I could grow it again."

Hart Council leader Lorraine Fullbrook said she was impressed with Mr Arbuthnot's fundraising skills.

"He's done very well," she said.

"We are now talking to businesses in the constituency to raise money for when the beard comes off.

"It would be great if he could raise another £10,000 to have it shaved off — that would be a fabulous target to hit."

A jazz band and barber shop quartet are booked to play when Mr Arbuthnot goes under the knife.

The charity stunt means a £1,000 donation to Odiham Cottage Hospital, which has gone form strength to strength since more than 1,000 residents dug deep into their pockets to stop NHS plans to close the much loved building seven years ago.

More than 1,200 people, representing all the villages in the hospital's catchment area, joined a demonstration march through the historic village and Odiham Cottage Hospital Redevelopment Trust (OCHRE) was set up.

OCHRE negociated with the health authority and oversaw a massive fundraising campaign.

On June 30, 1998, after exactly 50 years of NHS ownership, the hospital was bought for £245,000 and returned to the community.

It was refurbished and modernised and, thanks to the generosity of the community, several local charitable trusts and local parish councils, about £400,000 was raised to complete the work.

In November 1999, Odiham reopened its doors and welcomed back its patients.

OCHRE helps support the hospital by contributing around 20% of its running costs each year, raised by the community and the League of Friends.


Charlotte Neal
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