Tag Archives: orpington

It was sixty years ago today… Orpington falls to the Liberals

By-elections can have a dramatic impact on the political scene. The Orpington by-election, the 60th Anniversary of which is today, was the first and therefore biggest to rock a Government. The 26% swing to the Liberals saw them leap frog Labour and replace the Conservatives who had represented the area since universal suffrage was introduced.

The ingredients to build the winning campaign was not dissimilar to the factors at play in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire in 2021. The Liberals had a fledgling local government base, there was an unpopular Conservative Government, matched with an arrogant and complacent attitude to the campaign by the Tories. The Liberals found the issues and had an army of dedicated activists to win over support.

The Orpington story started in the mid 1950’s when a small dedicated team of activists decided to start fighting local council elections seriously. Their first breakthrough came with a by-election win in 1959 in Biggin Hill ward. Each year they grew the Council group, winning over many young families new to the area by highlighting a lack of infrastructure and new housing to meet the needs of the growing population. By 1961, there were twelve Liberals on the Council and, in September of that year, a County Council by-election saw the first Liberal elected to Kent County Council. Within 12 days of this victory, it was announced Donald Sumner, the Tory MP, was being appointed a County Court Judge and there would be a parliamentary by-election.

Posted in Liberal History | Also tagged | 5 Comments

After Orpington

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In 1962 the best days of the Liberal Party must have seemed like a long way behind them. Decline had been the order of the day for decades, byelections were not scenes of success, a lone win in 1958 at Torrington being their first gain since 1929! The National Liberals who had split way remained a separate force propped up by the Tories and despite a new leader breathing some life into the party the national share of the vote at the previous General Election had been less than six per cent with only six MPs returned.

Then came Orpington, a suburban constituency whose Conservative incumbent had been appointed to a judgeship causing a byelection. The Liberal candidate was the young Eric Lubbock who had been elected as a local Councillor a couple of years previously. The Tory government was going through a period of mid term unpopularity not a surprise given they had been in office for some time. However nobody expected them to lose but they did lose in a spectacular fashion. A swing of over 20% saw Lubbock turn a Conservative majority of over 14,000 into a Liberal one of more than 7,000.

After the result there was much talk of it being an indication of the changes that were place in British society and the existence of a new type of voter Orpington man who shunned the class based politics of the two major parties. The expected Liberal revival didn’t quite materialise but the 1964 General Election an election which Labour won with a wafer thin majority did see an increase in both the share of the vote and the number of MPs.

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Eric Lubbock: From Orpington Man to Buddhist Monk?

For many years Adrian Slade has interviewed prominent Liberal Democrats. To mark his recent decision to make his archive of the interview recordings available to researchers and other interested parties, Lib Dem Voice is running a selection of his write-ups of interviews from over the years. The latest is from 2002 and is with Lord Avebury, formerly Eric Lubbock – victor of the 1962 Orpington by-election, MP for eight years and chair of the parliamentary human right s group from 1976 to 1997.

For a few astonishing days in March 1962, the Liberal Party led the Conservative and Labour parties in the opinion polls, the only time it had ever done so since polls were invented.

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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 …

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Tory councillor suspended over “foreign names” slur

Orpington Conservative Councillor Peter Hobbins has been suspended resigned from the party after criticising candidates with foreign names – and Central Office for picking them.

As News Shopper reports, Councillor Hobbins wrote:

“Not one of them has a ‘normal’ English name.

“They want to be the PPCs for Orpington and asked me for my personal advice on how they would be the best candidates for the Orpington Constituency. My view? For hells sake.

“Why are the Candidates Department so keen on these foreign names?!!!!

“The candidates department are simply rushing these names through.

“They have absolutely no idea about how Associations are organised

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Will the Conservatives deal with racism in the Orpington PPC selection?

Leaked emails published by Duncan Borrowman reveal a dismal state of affairs in the Orpington Conservative party, with Councillor Peter Hobbins writing comments such as, “Why are the Candidates Department so keen on these foreign names?!!!” and criticising members of the Conservative Party’s list of approved candidates for not having “a ‘normal’ English name”.

Duncan’s post says,

Racism is alive and kicking in Orpington Conservatives, as revealed in a couple of emails sent on the Bromley Council email system to their local councillors and constituency chairman in the early hours of this morning, and leaked to me today.

You can read the full …

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YouTube ‘cos we want to: by-election special

Welcome to the weekend edition of our LDV feature, rounding up some of the best/worst/most curious political videos doing the rounds. What could be more approrpiate today than to take the theme of by-elections?

First up, let’s cast our minds back some 47 years: to Orpington, scene of perhaps the most famous Liberal by-election victory of all, when Eric Lubbock was elected the Liberal party’s sixth MP:

And now a slight change of tack – BBC2’s Mock The Week’s take on ‘Bad Things For a By-Election Candidate to Say’:

Posted in YouTube | Also tagged , , and | 5 Comments
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