James Davidson (British politician)

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James Duncan Gordon Davidson (born 10 January 1927) was a British Liberal politician and farmer. He served as Member of Parliament for Aberdeenshire West from 1966 to 1970, when he chose not to stand again because of a family illness.[1]

Before politics[edit]

Davidson was an Aberdeenshire farmer by profession[2] but had served as a naval officer and had been naval attache at the British Embassy in Moscow. He had been educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and Downing College, Cambridge.[3] In 2003, he published a book about Scottish Naval History, Scots and the Sea: A Nation's Lifeblood.[4]


Davidson was selected to fight Aberdeenshire West for the Liberals. During the 1966 general election campaign one of Davidson's main policy points was the establishment of a development authority for the North East of Scotland (on the lines of the Highlands and Islands Development Board)[5] and he was a strong advocate on behalf of small farmers and of improving communications in remote areas like the Highlands by improving road links to the major cities.[6] He also campaigned for better air and sea links with Scandinavia.[5]

Davidson was Liberal spokesman on foreign affairs and defence issues in Parliament, a particularly important brief given the ongoing war in Vietnam and the arguments over Britain's role East of Suez.[7] In February 1967,[8] he took a leading role in the opposition to the government's plans to raise fees for foreign students at British universities and introduced a Bill to give the people of Scotland and Wales referendums on devolution.[9] This was as part of the Liberal strategy to draw the sting of the increasing popularity of the Scottish National Party and re-establish the Liberal position on 'home rule all round' with the Scottish electorate.[10]

1970 general election[edit]

When Davidson stood down from Parliament his constituency was contested at the 1970 general election by Laura Grimond, wife of Liberal leader Jo Grimond. Although the overall strength of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons after that election plummeted from 13 to just 6 MPs, had Davidson stood again he may nonetheless have retained the seat, possibly even with an increased majority, based on his record as a strong and popular local MP.[11] Despite Davidson's campaigning alongside Mrs Grimond, the seat was gained for the Conservatives by Colonel Colin 'Mad Mitch' Mitchell formerly of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who had proved his personal bravery serving under fire in Aden. Although Mitchell's majority was more than 5000 votes, and the Liberal Party lost another Highland seat at Ross and Cromarty, and even Jo Grimond's majority in Orkney and Shetland was reduced to its lowest-ever level, the opinion of The Times reporter that Davidson could have held on may nevertheless have been well-founded, given the area's traditional respect for "one of their own" and some reluctance at the time to accept a female alternative as MP.

Lost leader?[edit]

When Grimond stood down as leader of the Liberal Party in 1967 he apparently asked Davidson if he wanted to be a candidate for the leadership but Davidson reported that he thought Grimond had put this question to every one of the twelve MPs in the Liberal Parliamentary Party. He declined to stand himself and, with misgivings, voted for Jeremy Thorpe as the most experienced candidate.[12]

With effect from 1 October 1970, Davidson was appointed to be chief executive of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland[13] and he continued in the post until 1991.


  1. ^ Michael McManus, Jo Grimond: Towards the Sound of Gunfire, (Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2001; p311)
  2. ^ Jo Grimond, Memoirs, (Heinemann, London, 1979; p.229
  3. ^ Who was Who, OUP 2007
  4. ^ Mainstream Books, Edinburgh
  5. ^ a b The Times, 22 March 1966
  6. ^ Arthur Cyr, Liberal Politics in Britain, (Transaction Books, New Jersey, 1988; p112
  7. ^ McManus, op cit: p255
  8. ^ The Times, 18 February 1967
  9. ^ The Times, 28 November 1968
  10. ^ The Times, 7 February & 12 February 1969 and McManus, op cit
  11. ^ The Times, 6 June 1970
  12. ^ Jo & Laura Grimond, A Selection of Memories and Photographs, (Orkney Liberal Democrats, Kirkwall, 2000; p42
  13. ^ The Times, 16 May 1970

Other sources[edit]

  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Page
  • Who's Who - OUP, 2007
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Forbes Hendry
Member of Parliament for Aberdeenshire West
Succeeded by
Colin Campbell Mitchell