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My brief career in politics

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posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:17 AM
Fifty years ago this month, there was a General Election in Britain. The forces of freedom, led by Ted Heath (Conservative) were striving to overthrow the evil socialist dictatorship of Harold Wilson (Labour). I did my bit by standing in our school’s Mock Election.

This was a boys’ grammar school. Now that the type has nearly disappeared, a brief explanation will be needed. In those days, a national selection examination at the age of eleven separated out the more intelligent pupils into schools which were normally single-sex. In our rural area, the girls’ equivalent was even in a different town (very frustrating).The years were numbered from the first arrival in the school. Thus the first form would be eleven years old, the fourth form fourteen, and so on. Incidentally, none of us were “students”. Students go to college or university. (This thread could almost be included in “Ancient and Lost Civilisations”)

I was a senior boy in the esoteric category of “Third-year Sixth”. My university place was already secured, so these six months were in effect my “gap-year”. I was still taking a French examination, but it was not important. If I tell you that it was an A-level examination and I received an O-level pass, those old enough to remember will understand how little work I was doing.

The political issues being voiced at the time were;

Trade Union power and industry-damaging strikes. The Labour party was founded and funded by Trade Unions, so they could only tackle the issue in a half-hearted way. Ted Heath was eventually brought down by it. It was left to the Iron Lady to sort out the problem.

Whether to enter the Common Market (or European Economic Community). Ironically, all the resistance to Europe was coming from the left wing (“it’s a capitalists’ club”), so I could mock them for lack of imagination. Currently an academic issue, because President de Gaulle had already said “Non!” Twice.
Q. Why does General de Gaulle live at Colombey-les-deux-eglises?
A. Because they worship God in the other one.

Immigration. Enoch Powell had already inflamed the question with a notorious speech in 1968, and would make another one during the course of this election. This was, and remains (immigration being voluntary) a city issue rather than a rural issue. The only black pupil in our school was adopted by white parents.

Education. The left-wing project was to abolish the selection examination and bring all pupils together in mixed-ability schools. This was called “comprehensive education”, and co-education would be one of the side-effects (hence the confusion between the two terms).

“Free radio”. A younger-generation issue. This was about abolishing the B.B.C. monopoly in order to allow music-dedicated commercial channels. I was a books person. Not interested, and not politician enough to take up an issue just because my voters might be interested.

Here is an account, from a History specialist, of how these matters were fought out in our school;

Thursday June 4th

…I am also standing as a candidate in this year’s Mock General Election. Fellows is my agent, and he had a nomination form seconded by Willenbruch ready for me to sign. I needn’t worry about the national opinion polls because our school elections have a lot of different factors to take into consideration. In 1964 and 1966 the Conservatives were first, Liberals second, Labour third, and a fourth party had a small number of voters. This year there may be five; myself as Conservative, Griffiths Labour, a Liberal, Pott as Communist, and Angel as Independent. The peculiar factors are these; there is the tendency of the school to be more conservative than the country. There is what I call the “joke” vote, in that there are a number of people who take no interest in politics and would vote for the fourth party “just for a giggle”. I suspect, for various reasons, that this vote will be shared this time between Pott and myself. Then there is the lower school. These always tend to be more conservative than their seniors, and I think I’m better placed than other candidates to exploit this vote because of personal popularity in these regions. Some of the boys today were already giving me assurances of their support. The first form will be for me, and 3A still regard me as peculiarly their own.

Monday June 8th.

…Afterwards there were developments in the political sphere. Pott, Angel, and Street for the Liberals posted their manifestoes., written notices in the case of the last two. In 1964 there were several meetings in the Hall and much additional canvassing elsewhere. I remember Parkinson, from the steps of the second-form block, speaking into the loud-speaker system spread around the school. The Head was not enthusiastic about this, especially when it was happening before Assembly. So in 1966 the candidates had just the one meeting each in the Hall. This year Mr. Abbott intends to have one grand meeting on Thursday, with each candidate speaking for five minutes. I think it would be a tight schedule to fit them all in. Either the first couple would be speaking before the Hall was half full, or the last speakers would be pressed for time because of lunch, or both. So when Angel asked me if I wanted to be in any particular place in the order, I suggested speaking in alphabetical order. That would put me in the middle, which is exactly the right place. The five minute time-limit suits my speech-writing very well. Nothing could be more suitable- except that I have not paid for dinner on that day.

Thursday June 11th

When I came to school, each party had one poster up. Griffiths had an official Labour poster with the original mane covered by his own.. Mine was a very neat and modest affair, simply “Vote for Stephen MySelf”, illustrated by an imitation ballot paper with a cross. The Liberals “cared”. Angel had an address beginning “Doubtless the two main parties have already indoctrinated you…”.Barker said at the bus-stop that he wasn’t very interested by the policies of the parties, so I suggested that he should decide by the candidates. He didn’t like Griffiths, he said, and didn’t know Pott. He wasn’t impressed by Street and Angel. And that left me.


posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:24 AM
Assembly was in the main Hall, and this left the chairs for the lunchtime political meeting.

Six chairs were behind the table on the stage, one for Mr. Abbott. I went in straight after first lunch, found it nearly empty, went out for a while and came back when there were more people and it was more settled. The other candidates, already wandering about the stage, were indignant at the cheer which rose as I mounted the steps. We were settled and ready to begin at a quarter to one; We had five minutes decided by Mr. Abbot’s watch. Angel opened with a discursive speech on his policies getting a cheer when he said “I think this area is against comprehensive education” and “I think all immigration ought to be stopped”. A cry from Mr. Cornell; “What about London Transport?” Angel said industry already had enough immigrants to keep going. Griffiths began by deploring Presidential campaign methods, and hoping the election would be run on issues rather than personalities. He spoke on the government’s record, including the fact that the World Cup had been won for the first time under a Labour government.

When I stood up there was a loud cheer, which I had to gesture down because I was short of time. I adapted my beginning to include a reference to Harold Wilson’s footballing victories. I got through the first page with a few cuts, for time passed rapidly. Onto the newspaper industry strike. When I mentioned the high wages, Mr. Cornell at the back shouted out “through Tory policy”. I almost shouted back the next line, “through successive feats of blackmail”, because he’d interrupted a brief pause. Apparently some people thought this was meant as a direct response to Mr. Cornell, and somebody commented that I sounded angry. I had to cut short the paragraph on Europe, which must have left it meaningless to the audience, and went straight to the last paragraph.

[The Labour government has always shown that it is prepared to sacrifice the interests of any individual or a large number of individuals in favour of the convenience of its giant bureaucratic machine. The socialist philosophy has the impersonality of a machine, the inflexibility of a machine, the lack of imagination of a machine; Fight the machine! And vote in a government for the individual.]

Street followed by mutual arrangement with Pott, who wanted to go last. He was hissed a lot. He was cheered, however, when he came to raising agricultural wages, and on “Free radio”. Pott moved from behind the table and read from his notebook a speech beginning “I was going to do as all the others have done and read a well-prepared speech…”. He continued to read out his spontaneous comments and invited questioning. He was hissed a lot more, but he had a few questions. Then the meeting was ended.

After that I put up another notice (Fellows was absent). I think my method of canvassing is as good as anybody’s -i.e. I wander round the school and am accosted by swarms of small boys who tell me that they are going to vote for me. Parr in 2A and his gang are going around distributing “Vote for MySelf” pieces of paper. Hambidge says there has been a swing to the Conservatives- everybody in his form is going to vote Conservative except himself.

Monday June 15th

Fellows was going around putting up more of his notices this morning. Griffiths told me before Assembly (which was in the main Hall) that there would be a meeting at twelve-forty for the asking of questions, and he got me to announce it. Immediately after Assembly some new folding examination desks were brought it, easier to stow, and more wobbly to write on .I did the outline of the English to French translation in half an hour, the difficulties being in some words I did not know. The dictation had some rather difficult words, especially in the second half, including one which I hope was “utinciles”. I did one of my best free compositions, on “les joies de l’enfance”.

The meeting which followed was rather noisy at the back and unconstructive. Griffiths himself did not appear until late. When we finally settled down, the first question was “What about the Welsh?” Street answered in favour of Home Rule, Griffiths said they thought Britain could be organised better with centralisation. Would the Communists, once in government, allow other parties to exist? Pott said there would be no need for banning of parties, or any censorship at all. What about Russia? He did not regard Russia as a Communist country. Cuba was (Nobody asked how many parties there are in Cuba). Mrs. . Moody asked if the Conservative candidate would like to take the opportunity to disassociate himself from Mr. Powell’s speech. I did. Aves asked what kind of farm prices we would give, so we had to answer in turn. I said I didn’t know, but I was sure they would be very good ones. Street had his own farm policy. Pott said they would introduce a minimum weekly wage of £17. Griffiths was asked why he had failed to win the World Cup, and he said it was through nervousness that a Conservative government might get in. When a question was asked on “Free Radio”, an issue which I refuse to adopt, Fellows bounded onto the steps after Street and Angel spoke, and began saying “As official Conservative spokesman on Free Radio…”, but he was soundly booed off.

After Pott answered a question on immigration, Angel tried to come in, but his views met with a poor reception and his stumbling manner did not help. When he said we had enough immigrants already, there was general laughter because Bolton [the black pupil] was one of those who cried “No!” Why a penny extra on the price of Mars bars?- blame the capitalists who make them. Strikes- devaluation- the improvement of the economy it brought about. Did we think opinion polls reflected the general opinion of the country? [At this time the polls were predicting a Labour victory] Griffiths thought they did. I hoped not, and pointed out that there are about 58 million people in the country and the polls tested only a few hundreds. Finally Goodjohn asked if we would cut betting tax and lengthen drinking hours. Angel’s reply was incoherent, but implied disapproval of the spirit of the question.

Angel put up a new notice in the afternoon saying “Do you want the Black Hole of Bradford?” I suggested that the other four parties put out a joint statement of disassociation, and in general Fellows, the Liberal agent, and Pott agreed. Griffiths had yet to be consulted.

Tuesday June 16th

Angel took down his notice after Assembly, promising to put another one up, so we are holding our statement in reserve. Fellows and I are both wearing rosettes, and he has a photograph of myself to stick in his.

posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:28 AM
I spent most of the morning stapling programmes for the lower school Sports Day in company with Barker, while Angel and Walker helped at times. We did 375 copies altogether, and the Secretary gave both of us a Cadbury’s Flake in reward for our labours. After dinner the lower school took out their chairs. Mr. Taylor wanted some for the parents. “MySelf, you can organise that”, he said, quite casually. While some lower Sixth boys took a party to the library to collect chairs, he sent me to Mr. Bartholomew to find out what table he wanted taking out. He wanted four tables from the dining-hall, so I got those out with my four helpers. I saw Griffiths, Pott, and Street together among the rows of chairs, so I went over to see what was happening.
“Are you trying to steal my voters?” I demanded.
“Steal them?” said Griffiths. “You’ve got all of them!” He said his researches had shown I had a vast majority (though the fourth-formers were not present, it has to be said, because they stayed indoors).

Wednesday June 17th

We had French literature this morning. This is the paper which is likely to bring down my grade, being the one most affected by doing little preparation. I could write a good essay on the meaning of Antigone, and competently on the Malade Imaginaire, having read them both recently. I’ve got the reputation in our set of being the only one in the group who can understand Athalie. However, since I haven’t looked at it since before the Mocks, except perfunctorily, I did not know the text set. On internal evidence, I wrongly attributed it to Abner, and set out from there. I began Mallarme, but changed my mind, and wrote about “my favourite stories” in Maupassant instead, which meant that I could pick my own.

There was a question meeting planned in 1Alpha, which was moved to the open air. The four of us (without Angel) had our chairs on the path with our backs to the first-form rooms. The audience were on the grass, standing, or sitting if they had brought seats out. What would Labour do for agriculture, was he in favour of Free Radio? Pott was asked whether he wanted us to go into the Common Market, and he said no, for the usual socialist reasons. While other parties thought about big companies, he thought about the people. What reason did he have to think that the workers were oppressed today? (This question was clapped) Because of their low pay ,below the £17 a week minimum which he was advocating. Where was the money going to come from? From the vast profits of the companies which employ them. One boy asked me whether I was in favour of co-education. When I began to answer, pointing out what the word meant, he changed his mind and asked about comprehensive education instead. Then Griffiths answered my thoughts and we responded to each other. Pott, asked about wage inflation, said that unions should have the freedom to get their men higher wages. I commented that he was arguing in favour of the unions’ right to commit anarchy.

A question from Linton to me on immigration was interrupted, or rather my thinking time was extended, when Fellows came on the scene through the first-form room behind us. There was a general all-party chant of “Out! Out!” and he went and took his place in the audience. Pott was asked how a Communist leader was compatible with the idea that all men were equal. He said that he did not think that Russia was a Communist country, but “take Cuba for instance”, and he demonstrated that Castro was just the same as everybody else, or rather that he lived in exactly the same way. But he said nothing about the unrestrained power of the leadership, which can be used to make a Communist country an unpleasant place to live in.

Fellows asked Griffiths if he could keep his chanting supporters quiet. Griffiths said they were nothing to do with him. Abbott asked Fellows to kindly address his remarks through the chair. Fellows repeated his question, “through the chair”, and Griffiths answered that there had been no chanting until Fellows came along, which brought another cheer. Linton asked me once again about immigration. I said that I wanted all British subjects to be able to enter the country with the same freedom, but that we just did not have the room to allow this to all non-British subjects. Pott asked me about the Irish. I said that I would count them as British, so he mentioned something about colour discrimination. I denied this. I said I had claimed freedom of movement for all British subjects, which would include the famous Kenyan Asians, if that was what he was referring to, because they had British passports. Then it became a useless exchange between Griffiths and myself on the voting rights of the Irish in British General Elections. He was coming from a totally unexpected angle, criticising the privilege as illogical. I can accept it, because I’m familiar with the history that lies behind it.

Mr. Abbott asked us all to say something to wind up. When Pott began, Robb made some comment about Communism. Then, when shushed by Pott, he said he still had the right to express his opinion, the Communists weren’t in power yet, mate, which brought more clapping. Pott told them all not to vote just as their parents did, but to consider their own opinions on the policies put forward by the candidates.

The general impression is that I will win. I was surprised to be told that my closest rival in one of the first forms is Pott. In 2A, where Hambidge, Parr and their gang are going round campaigning for me vigorously, estimates of my poll in a recent vote have varied between “two-thirds” and “everybody except two”. It’s been suggested that Fellows might have injured my vote, but I don’t agree. Ashman has conducted an opinion poll with a small random sample. He converted the proportions of answers into percentages, then translated these into numbers of votes by assuming an electorate of 400. This rather uncomplicated system, which would be frowned upon by professional statisticians, produces very credible results at first sight. He predicts 140 votes for me, the same as at the last election, 100 for Griffiths, 60 each for Street and Pott. He found nobody supporting Angel, but thought he had better predict one vote, because Angel would vote for himself. The normal abstainers would be accounted for by the 10% “Don’t Knows”. There will also be absentees in the fifth form and upper Sixth because of exams, but this would probably increase my majority by affecting my opponents more than it affects me. Personally, I shall measure my success by the amount that my total vote exceeds the Tory vote of 1966.

posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:29 AM
Thursday June 18th

The voting in our own election began immediately after Assembly when the ballot boxes were taken round the first and second form rooms, and the rest of the school mostly voted at break in the Exhibition Hall. Mr. Abbott had Mr. Kilvington and Mr. Rees to help him, to cross off the names, and to stamp the back of the ballot papers. At lunchtime, when the last stragglers were coming in, I was already being congratulated, and I gave my first autographs, to Stroud and two other first-formers. Mr. Abbott came on my dinner-table. The two translations from French I had in the afternoon were very easy, and I could do them both in under an hour altogether.

As soon as this exam had finished I immediately went to get my case and went up to the Secretary’s room. In the last two elections, the result was announced to the bus queues, from the balcony, at a quarter to four. Mr. Abbott had already asked me how the announcement was managed in previous years, so he had arranged to do it the same way. The room was full of Mr. Abbott, the Secretary, the other four looking at the cuttings of previous elections in the school scrapbook, a woman photographer, and two small girls.
“Do you know what your majority is!” said Griffiths. “It’s a hundred and ten.”
“You shouldn’t have told him,” said Street, “You should have kept him in suspense.”
The Secretary assured the photographer she would be able to get a picture of me in my blazer, with the rosette (I was still in shirt-sleeves at the time). I also assured her, when she asked me, that the rosette was home-made. This seemed to be a very satisfactory answer. We stayed in the room for a while before we finally went out onto the balcony. Mr. .Abbott was wearing his gown and an old-style teacher’s cap. The bus queues were down below, and the staff in the centre of the drive. He announced the figures- Angel 6, Griffiths 68, MySelf 178, Pott 34, Street 39.Then I said a few words into the microphone, thanking him, the voters, my agent, “and all the little agents of 2A”. Another photographer, holed out in the windows of Room 13 next door, who had been gesturing during the proceedings, got the other candidates to line up more or less diagonally behind me while I held the microphone. The woman took two photographs of the six of us, first in a kind of family group, then she got them to pat my back and Street to shake my hand.

Thursday June 25th

Yesterday Simon brought home from school an envelope with House of Commons seal- a letter from Mr. Pym, the Cambridgeshire M.P. and the new Chief Whip, congratulating me on winning the election and “setting a good example to the rest of the country” .

[There was a popular belief at the time that Ted Heath had swung the election at the last minute by his famous (unfulfilled) promise that a Conservative government could cut prices “at a stroke”. For some reason, this point doesn’t get picked up by television researchers, so it never gets mentioned in documentaries.]

posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:30 AM

I had to learn a new technique to upload that picture, so that's the best I can do.

From left to right; Pott, Griffith, MySelf, Street, Mr. Abbott, Angel
edit on 7-6-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:33 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Lot of interesting cultural bits woven into that account.


posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 09:43 AM
a reply to: F2d5thCavv2
As I said, "lost civilisations".

posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 12:06 PM
DISRAELI, Danger Powers, ah thank you.

Jokes aside wow that’s such a detailed and interesting glimpse into the past, thank you very much for that.
a reply to: DISRAELI

edit on 7-6-2020 by Athetos because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 7 2020 @ 12:20 PM
a reply to: Athetos
The value of keeping a good diary during the interesting parts of your life.
Also good for future historians.

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