How did shuttleworths get their name?

imageIt is a truth universally acknowledged that if you want to know anything about the olden days of liberalism, you ask The Lord (Tony) Greaves. A few days ago, somebody emailed a group of friends how shuttleworths got their name. For those of you who don’t know, these are the pads that used to have the names and addresses of supporters in a particular area for use on polling day. I knew I’d heard the story before and the various answers  that were being told didn’t seem right but I couldn’t remember what it was and, frankly, I had lots of voters to talk to so I didn’t look any further.

Then, with extraordinary serendipity, a comment from Tony Greaves got caught in auto-moderation. I actually saw his slight grumble about it in the main thread before I saw the actual comment. Anyway, it was the first thing that made me smile all day yesterday, so I emailed him to tell him. I also too my chance to ask him. This is his reply, reproduced with his permission.

Once upon a time when the world was young, and I was even younger, Reading was a marginal constituency. The MP was Ian Mikardo. He invented the system in which four sheets of thin paper were interleaved with old-fashioned carbon paper for the purpose of crossing off numbers and knocking up. I think this was some time in the 1950s.
The Labour Party adopted the name “Mikardo pads”. The Tories copied them and called them “Reading pads”. The Liberal party copied the system and had them printed by a firm called Shuttleworth Printers Ltd, based somewhere in Lancashire (I think Ramsbottom). I have used Shuttleworths with the Shuttleworth Printers imprint on them!
Then everyone started to use ncr paper, which meant committee rooms were no longer strewn with mucky carbon paper as the sheets were torn off.
The SDP called them Cowley Pads. We just continued to call them Shuttleworths even though no longer printed by them.
The rest is history and so are Shuttleworths other than the name of the filter in EARS.

So, there you have it.

I am actually old enough to remember doing a proper old school election with written shuttleworths. In 1994, there was a by-election in Derbyshire in the heat of Dennis Skinner’s constituency and the ace Chesterfield team went to help. There was no EARS for the ward, so we ended up writing the shuttleworths on eve of poll. it was great fun.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Duncan Borrowman 24th May '14 - 8:46pm

    I was using hand written ones in the 80s. But by about 1990 was buying a version of them you printed on a dot matrix printer from Polly.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '14 - 8:55pm

    We must have had them in Kincardine and Deeside in 1987 but I can’t remember them. By 1992, I was in Mansfield and we got EARS and had lots of fun printing them out.

  • Russel McPhate 24th May '14 - 9:35pm

    We definitely had them in Hillhead in 1987. It was the only time I ever actually used them.

  • And we won the 1994 County by election in Bolsover constituency (Clowne and Barlborough) handwritten Shuttleworths, hand addressed Target letters (in 3 varieties as I recall), hand pasted canvass cards and all. The former Cllr is still a member in Chesterfield.

    Introducing EARS into Chesterfield had made all this easier (so running the Bolsover by election was a throwback) but computer programmes didn’t invent targeting like this -contrary to some of the wilder write ups by CONNECT enthusiasts in the last year or so!

  • It’s only a few years since we stopped using them!

    No EARS nonsense here!

  • Tony Greaves 24th May '14 - 11:50pm

    What do they call it in CONNECT?

    I remember at the Ribble Valley by-election in 1991, Chris Rennard decreed that the people running each committee room could choose whether to use a computer, or Shuttleworths printed off (by POLLY at that election). I was running the big ward in Clitheroe full of “Labour voters” – where at the end of the evening we knocked up all the Labour poster sites and even the Labour Committee Room voted for us – and insisted on Shuttleworths…


  • Tony Greaves 24th May '14 - 11:51pm

    I wonder what word has caught me this time???!!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th May '14 - 12:08am

    I didn’t realise Margot was still around, Paul. That was a cracking by-election which, of course, took place on day John Smith died. A fun campaign.

  • I used Shuttleworth pads in the 1997 General Election. One Poll District in central Oxford didn’t have EARS or its predecessor running so they set up Shuttleworths. I came in from outside to help the OXWAB campaign on the day and was drafted to do the actual data cross-off work in the committee room as nobody else was old enough to remember how to do it.

  • Perhaps the party should now provide pads for lists of councillors who have lost their seats because of the failures of the national leadership.

    Clegg Pads.

  • Stephen Walkley 25th May '14 - 7:53am

    Am sure we used Shuttleworths at Brierly Hill in 1967. Michael Steed was the candidate – Cant remember the name of the agent but think he was the one of the few full time agents the party had then – knew everything about in elections.

  • I always thought they were lists of people who were worth shuttling to the polling station… A happy coincidence.

  • There’s a Shuttleworth Printers outside Blackburn – only 10 miles from the former village of Shuttleworth on the edge of Ramsbottom.

    Do you think it might be them?

    We had one polling district that used paper Shuttleworths until a year or two ago. And they regularly were amongst the most efficient at turning their vote out too…

  • Pretty sure I remember using these in NE Fife in 1992, though we did have POLLY by then so it was probably the printed versions. I also seem to remember tables of knock-up lists in the 1998 local elections in Sutton, but by then it must have been printed!

  • Liberal Neil 25th May '14 - 10:22am

    I used hand-written Shuttleworths the first time I ran a Committee Room. In 1989 in East Knighton Ward in Leicester.

    My preparation for the day was reading the Polling Day chapter in ‘Winning Local Elections’.

    We ran from Cllr Bob Pritchard’s house and had all the pads laid out on a huge dining table. As Paul says, it was great to see the colours change as the day went on.

    Anyway, knowing no better, I ran it ‘by the book’ and we ended up getting 88% of the Shuttleworth out.

    Yes, 88%!

    I’ve never bettered that since.

    Turned out to be one of (I think) only two gains from the Tories that year, getting Bob onto the County and Arnie Gibbons onto Leicester City Council in a by-election.

    Tony – in Connect we call them ‘Shuttleworths’ 😉

  • Mark Smulian 25th May '14 - 11:52am

    I once heard a story about a liberal activist, who shall remain nameless, whose modus operandi was to put on a suit with a blue rosette, enter a Tory by-election headquarters claiming to be one of their agents from the other end of the country, and then cause utter mayhem.

    This relied on the Tories’ unquestioning deference to authority. So the story went that when he had a room full of Tory Shuttleworth writers about the start work eve of poll on their carbonless copying pads, his instructions began: “Please remember this is special paper so you can only use felt pens on it.” Reams of blank Tory Shuttleworths duly followed.

  • “The rest is history and so are Shuttleworths …” Please don’t forget the ever-popular comedian of the club circuit and of course the Liberal Revue, our own, our very own, Nobby Shuttleworth, the man who took the post out of post-modern (and the modern).

  • Paul In Twickenham 25th May '14 - 6:11pm

    @Liberal Neil – thanks for the memory, that made me smile!

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th May '14 - 1:39am

    Mark – Your story is true. A certain activist from the North West did exactly that in a certain parliamentary by-election in the early 1980s.

    I still have a wad of shuttleworths along with a folder of letraset that I should really throw out.

    I also still have old-fashioned ‘Thor’ tellers pads which I now use at PV & Count verifications.

  • Very nostalgic about Shuttleworths -wish we’d had them last week -Connect seized up on us on Election Day refused to accept data and printed out reams of the same paper (in a most peculiar order) exactly the same as we’d started with in the morning. It finally printed out some updated sheets about 8.45 ! We lost five out of our six local candidates (one by only 17 votes!) including the Council group leader. Never mind blaming Nick or the coalition – I blame not using a reliable system!

  • Peter Chivall 26th May '14 - 9:33am

    We delayed printing Shuttleworths from EARS last week until 12:30pm when we had inputted the first sets of tellers’ numbers for our two key Wards. EARS chose that moment to freeze and kept kicking us out. It was 2.30pm before it would work again. We’re still not sure if it was our Sky wireless modem or a bug that John Jefkins had missed in his now solo stewardship of EARS. Paradoxically it was one of our Candidates who is a Connect trainer who seemed to get it working again!
    Never mind, we won both seats with increased majorities but with UKIP pushing the Tories into third place!

  • SIMON BANKS 30th May '14 - 7:19pm

    If I remember rightly, Shuttleworth was a pretty good medium-pace seamer for Lancashire. Fine fellow to run off election pads on top of that…

    Bonkers, House of Lords.

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