Tag Archives: 1983 general election

Memories of the 1983 General Election – Detention, a bonfire and the relief of victory

Like first love, your first General Election is a special and precious thing.

Mine was 1983 and this post is inspired by the earlier one about Simon Hughes’ 40th anniversary celebration.

It must be pretty much exactly 40 years since I first walked into Bob Maclennan’s campaign HQ in Wick to ask for a copy of the manifesto. It certainly was a Saturday afternoon about 3 weeks before the election. They didn’t have one, but it took them an impressively short time to persuade me to deliver leaflets for them.

But all didn’t go smoothly. There was a lady in her garden burning some rubbish. I put on my best and most charming smile, and handed the leaflet to her. She gave me an absolute death stare and tossed the leaflet on the burning pile. I later discovered that she was a leading light in the local Conservatives. I have to say, that if a young person from an opposition party handed me a leaflet, I’d be impressed that they were interested in politics and I’d be very nice to them.

Anyway, that didn’t put me off and I became an an enthusiastic part of the campaign team. At 15, I was obviously the youngest by a very long way. It was great to spend my first campaign in the company of Bob, his wife Helen, his agent Peter Kelly and Ken and Brenda Fraser who were my friend’s parents but became my friends. Bob’s staff Jeanne and Con were also up with him. They were an impressive bunch to learn from.

Campaigning was so different back in those days. We actually had to cut up the electoral register to make canvass cards.  I remember one soggy Friday when we all got on to this truck thing and drove around Wick, with posters and megaphones, generally annoying everyone.

For me, I had just finished my O Grade exams so didn’t have to be in school much during May unless I had an exam. However, about a week before the election on 9 June, I had permission to be out of school to compete in the Caithness Music Festival. My bit was finished earlier than I expected so Helen spirited me away to the other side of the county to go canvassing. Unfortunately, one of my teachers saw me get into her car, so I ended up with the only detention I ever had to do as a result. However, I had learned about how to canvass with warmth and the personal touch. If people weren’t in, Helen left them a personal note to come home to.

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