Walter James: Last surviving 1950 General Election candidate

I don’t recall ever meeting Walter James, the last surviving candidate of any party who fought the 1950 General Election who has died aged 103, but I did hear my father Stanley Wood speak of him and I may have well have attended Liberal Party meetings at which James spoke.

James, who gained 1st class honours in modern history at Keble College, Oxford, wrote for the Manchester Guardian, had a distinguished career and later became a member of the BBC Advisory Council. In 1945 James was Liberal candidate for the Bury division in Lancashire, narrowly won from Labour by Tory Walter Fletcher. James was readopted, but boundary changes created the new seat of Bury & Radcliffe and he stood down as PPC in 1947 about the time my Dad Stan became Liberal Party agent.

With no staff and very few members (mainly old ladies who hand-addressed envelopes for every constituent) I became my father’s “gofer” and was his right-hand “man” for the 1950 general election, again won by a narrow margin from Labour by Walter Fletcher who at 19 stone was reputed to be the heaviest man in the House of Commons. The Liberal candidate was my history master at Bury Grammar School Colin Hindley (Hons History Wadham College Oxford), an unworldly man who naively believed he might win until he saw the votes being counted on election night. Despite being a Methodist preacher, after being adopted Hindley always gave me 20/20 for my history essays when I probably only deserved my previous mark of 17 or 18 (I was good at history).

In the 1950 election, the Liberal Party fought 478 seats and lost 319 deposits. Although insured with Lloyds, the terms were such that little money was saved. 9 Liberal MPs were elected, a net loss of three. Such was the financial loss to the party that in the 1951 general election there were only 109 Liberal candidates, the party further reduced to just six seats.

* Chris Foote-Wood is the former LibDem Leader of Wear Valley Council in County Durham and has fought eight Westminster elections and six European elections as a Liberal/LibDem candidate.

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12 Comments

  • So he also stood for the Liberals in 1945?
    Why is the 1950 general election especially emphasised, then, when he also seems to be our last surviving candidate from the 1945 election (presumably?), which seems even more remarkable?

    Am I missing something?

  • Lee_Thacker 31st Aug '15 - 2:47pm

    I felt the same way Maria, the article is not very well written.

    The headline is Walter James: Last Surviving 1950 General Election Candidate According to the Lib Voice article it links to and Wikipedia Arthur James was the last surviving Liberal candidate from the 1945 General Election. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Walter_James

    The first half of this article talks about Mr James before going on to Chris Foote-Ward’s father who was the agent in the successor seat in the 1950 election. The candidate was then Mr Hindley who happened to be Chris’ history teacher.

    Does anyone know whether Walter James, Colin Hindley, Chris Foote-Ward, Chris Foote-Ward’s father or his next-door-neighbour stood in the 1951 General election? (See Wikipedia for the exciting electoral history of Walter James.)

  • Lee_Thacker 31st Aug '15 - 2:50pm

    Sorry, that should be “Foote-Wood”

  • IIRC, Denis Healey stood as a candidate in 1945, but not 1950. I should think that is the reason for the wording.

  • David Blake 31st Aug '15 - 3:09pm

    Walter James, Colin Hindley and Chris Foote-Wood didn’t stand in either the 1951 or the 1955 election.

  • Chris was our European candidate in 1979 in Durham in the first direct elections to the European Parliament. I’m pretty certain that Chris was also our Westminster candidate at that May’s General Election. (I seem to recall that the previously adopted candidate stood down before the election,) It was a pleasure to campaign for Chris.

  • Dennis Healey didn’t stand in 1951 either, but was elected in a by-election in 1952.

  • Andy Connell 1st Sep '15 - 9:00am

    The article is fine, thanks.

  • Walter James was the last surviving Liberal candidate who stood at the 1945 general election (as correctly stated in an earlier thread) ; it is the heading over Chris Foote-Wood’s article that is wrong, not the article itself. There should certainly still be survivors living from among the great army of Liberals who contested the 1950 general election – Michael Turner-Bridger, our candidate for Woking in 1950 (although long since gone from us to join the Conservatives), died the other day – and it would be interesting to discover if any of them are currently Lib Dem members.

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