Orpington by-election, 1962

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The Orpington by-election in 1962 is often described as the start of the Liberal Party revival in the United Kingdom.

The by-election was caused by the appointment of Donald Sumner, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Orpington as a County Court judge. The appointment was generally thought to be making way for Peter Goldman, who had worked with Iain Macleod on the Conservatives' previous election manifesto. The Conservatives had held the seat since its creation in 1945 and, in the 1959 general election, had easily retained it. Labour and the Liberals had each picked up just over 20% of the vote. Commentators therefore expected Goldman to achieve a comfortable victory.

The Liberal Party had reached its lowest ebb in the 1951 general election, gaining only 2.5% of the national vote and returning only six MPs. Signs of a revival were not seen until it won the 1958 Torrington by-election, its first gain at a by-election since Holland with Boston in 1929. The following year, however, Torrington was lost at the general election and, despite increasing its share of the vote to 5.9%, the Party did not return more than six MPs. After the general election, its revival resumed as it took second place in several by-elections.

The Liberals initially planned to put forward their candidate from the 1959 election, Jack Galloway, but selected local councillor Eric Lubbock after it was revealed that Galloway had technically been guilty of bigamy.

During the campaign, Goldman attracted criticism for living outside the constituency and admitting that he had no plans to move into it. His close association with the Exchequer also meant his standing was damaged when the Conservative government was forced to announce a pay freeze for public sector workers that was seen, in particular, to penalise nurses.

The by-election was held on 14 March 1962.[1] Despite the Conservatives' troubles, the near-22% swing from them to the Liberals surprised most analysts. Lubbock won a 7,855 vote majority[2] and held the seat until 1970. The win boosted the Liberals' poll ratings but did not accelerate their resurgence.

Orpington by-election, 1962
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Eric Lubbock 22,846 52.9 +30.7
Conservative Peter Goldman 14,991 34.7 -21.9
Labour Alan Jinkinson 5,350 12.4 -9.8
Majority 7,855 18.2 -16.2
Turnout 43,187
Liberal gain from Conservative Swing +26.3
General Election 1959: Orpington
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Donald Sumner 24,303 56.6 -3.3
Labour N. J. Hart 9,543 22.2 -5.4
Liberal Jack Galloway 9,092 21.2 +8.7
Majority 14,760 34.4 +1.1
Turnout 42,938 82.8 +3.4
Conservative hold Swing +1.1

References[edit]

  1. ^ By-elections in British Politics ed. C.Cook & J.Ramsden, UCL Press, 1997.
  2. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY | 15 | 1962: Liberals seize Orpington". BBC News. 15 March 1990. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 

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