How many Liberal MPs can you get in a taxi? *

I guess I am the only Lib Dem Voice editor who actually remembers the Orpington by-election of 1962.  I was not old enough to vote (in case you were wondering) and I did not actually get involved in campaigning, but the excitement of the event certainly made an impression on me as a young supporter of the Liberals.

Eric Lubbock, now Lord Avebury, gained a huge swing in Orpington, taken mainly from from the Conservatives. That victory was widely perceived as a turning point for the party. For many years before, Liberal support had been declining; the standing joke was that the whole of the Parliamentary party could fit in a taxi. But for several months our vote share in by-elections rose and then the breakthrough came in March 1962.

Yesterday Greg Mulholland, supported by Tim Farron, tabled a Parliamentary motion celebrating the 50thanniversary of the historic Orpington result.  According to Greg,  his father John was the Liberal candidate in the Stockton-on-Tees by-election 1962; John himself has remarked on the sense of revival the party had that year.

Hugh Muir in the Guardian adds this snippet:

The winner, Lord Avebury – then plain Eric Lubbock – tells us the secret was basic shoe leather. “The March of 1962 was bitterly cold, and the Conservative candidate sat in a heated caravan and sent out Tory ladies to invite people to visit him, which didn’t go down too well on the doorstep,” says the peer, now 83.

* The answer, before Orpington, was six.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Wasn’t it Eric Lubbock?

  • He was Eric Lubbock not Ernest Lubbock as you say – Lord Avebury is still very active in the Lords and in his local Camberwell area

  • How many Liberal MPs can you fit in a taxi?

    The cynic in me says, “Stay tuned in May, 2015 and find out!” 😉

  • Mary is not the only one who remembers Orpington. I was 12 and helped my mother, now 92, take down posters for the ill-fated Tory candidate – which at £1 a time (allegedly) was expensive for him. I remember vividly running across snow covered fields with my ill gotten gains and putting them in the boot of my mum’s car. We almost got caught once, but got away with it!

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