LDVideo: From the archives – ‘How Members of Parliament Are Elected (1945)’

There now follows a public information film… During the 1940s, the British Council produced more than 120 short films ‘designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played’. They’re now available online, and here’s the Pathe-style feature on the 1945 electoral race in Kettering — or, as it’s described in the British Council Film Department Catalogue:

‘The film shows how the candidates, after completing the necessary formalities, plan their election campaigns with the help of their Agents and go round the district addressing the voters. What happens on Polling Day, how people vote, the precautions for secrecy, the counting of the votes and the declaration of the result are shown in detail. The film was made at Kettering in Northamptonshire during the 1945 election.’

The candidates featured are Labour’s Gilbert Mitchison, ‘Independent Christian’ John Dempsey and incumbent Conservative MP John Profumo, and it’s interesting to see the importance attached to public meetings, and the warnings — even after six years of war — of the danger of ‘apathy’.


(Available to watch here.)

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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11 Comments

  • Keith Browning 7th May '12 - 7:47pm

    The content seems very apposite for the events of this coming week. Some people might even think it was specially selected from the library of 119 others on offer.

  • @Mary – it definitely happened with Ming Campbell in North East Fife in 1992 (I was in the car!) but I don’t think it was used much – if at all – after that. Saying that, the SNP did use it in the Glenrothes By-Election in 2008 and I think again in the local elections the other week. Maybe there’s a lesson there….

  • Keith Browning 8th May '12 - 10:23am

    John Profumo obviously is famous for providing a ‘watershed’ moment in British politics – but what happened to him afterwards.

    From Wikipedia:

    ‘Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life.Eventually, Profumo volunteered as the charity’s chief fundraiser.

    He lived for another 43 years and regained his previous reputation as an honourable man by his charitable works.

    I wonder how many of today’s defaulters will take a similar path to salvation?

  • Joshua Dixon 8th May '12 - 5:12pm

    Where I’m from! How fascinating!

  • Simon Titley 8th May '12 - 7:09pm

    I cannot claim to be the last Liberal candidate to drive a car with a loudspeaker on the roof, but I probably was the last Liberal candidate to feature in a silent newsreel.

    I was candidate in Grantham in the 1983 general election. The owner of the local, independently-owned Paragon cinema asked if he could film a campaign meeting for his homemade newsreel. I asked if he wanted to record an interview. Oh no, came the reply, he recorded no sound, just pictures. He duly turned up with a little Super 8 camera and made his film.

    I never saw the results, so I do not know whether the film was accompanied by a pianist. But on reflection, for greater media impact, I should have arranged for my campaign meeting to include a custard pie fight.

  • Chris Keating 8th May '12 - 8:27pm

    “The agent: the impresario who organises the whole campaign. It is the agent’s job to organise meetings, book halls, supervise printing of posters and leaflets, fix transport, answer queries, and deal with last minute breakdown of plans.”

    Most of the job hasn’t changed then 😉

  • Jonathan Hunt 10th May '12 - 4:25pm

    The best use of a loudspeaker was to draw attetion to a brightly decorated vehicle — or three. You did so by playing loud familiar musc, interspered by simple, short phrases.

    Ride of theValkeryes in a railway tunnel creates a wonderful noise. March of the Toredores and William Tell overture come a close second.

    Never tried Land of Hope and Gory so as not to be mistaken for NF or BNP.

    We learnt a long time ago never to make speeches through one, just repeat a simple and boring twitter-like soundbite.
    If you are able to park anywhere and people are present, try making a speech. But more a two-minute Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg than an Edward Everett fortwo hours before.

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