Wednesday, December 5, 2012

General Election 1945

W.W. Wakefield Conservative MP

With the war in Europe over, Winston Churchill faced increasing pressure at home to call a General Election.  Winding up the wartime National Government he went to the country to ask the electorate to give their mandate to his Conservative Party.

With the town’s newly honoured former MP, Sir Wavell Wakefield, contesting the Marylebone seat, Lieutenant Col. Alistair Gibb became the Conservative candidate in Swindon where he hoped to hold on to his predecessors 975 majority.  His adversary was Labour candidate Thomas Reid.

Among the 59,898 names on the new electoral register were 4,679 service voters.  However since its compilation, hundreds of war workers billeted in the area had returned to their homes.

“I regard it as the greatest compliment I have yet received that all the boo boys should have followed me here tonight,” said Col. Gibbs, addressing an eve of poll meeting held at the Drill Hall.  Meanwhile, at a Party rally at the Playhouse, Labour candidate Thomas Reid told his audience that there were nearly as many people outside the hall as in it.

Voting began early on Thursday July 5, as the 35 polling stations opening their doors at 7am and with a 9pm extension, most of them were kept busy almost up to closing time.

A Rodbourne Cheney voter in a hurry to catch an early train cast his vote as the polls opened while at 9pm at Lethbridge Road a motor cyclist raced up to the polling booth to find he was 15 seconds too late.  One woman informed the tellers outside the booth that she had a proxy vote from her husband in the Forces, but was not going to use it.  When asked why not she replied because he was voting differently to her.

As the polls closed in Swindon both the Conservative and Labour Parties were confident that their candidate had won.  “We originally thought that it would be a close fight, but now I think we are in with a substantial majority,” said Mr J. Burrows, the National Conservative Agent for Swindon.

With the count delayed three weeks to await the arrival of votes made by serving soldiers overseas, the country could only speculate as to the result.  Counting began at 9am on July 26 and by midday the results came flooding in.  A massive swing of opinion to the Left saw Labour sweep to victory with 393 seats.  Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and inspirational wartime leader, tendered his resignation to the King who invited Mr. Attlee to form a new Government.

And in Swindon too, Labour romped home to victory.  Thomas Reid polled 27,545 votes, winning with a resounding 10,904 majority.

Thomas Reid was re-elected in the 1950 General Election but retired at the end of that Parliament in 1955. 
Francis Noel-Baker was elected Labour MP for Swindon in 1955, standing down in 1969.  Conservative Christopher Ward won the ensuing by-election only to lose the seat just months later at the 1970 General Election.  Swindon turned red again when David Leonard Stoddart held the seat from 1970 until losing to Conservative candidate Simon Coombs in 1983.  Following boundary changes in 1997 Coombs stood for the new South Swindon seat but lost to New Labour’s Julia Drown with her stablemate Michael Wills winning the Swindon North seat.

Francis Noel-Baker Labour MP for Swindon 1955-1969

Lord Stoddart Labour MP for Swindon 1970-1983

Simon Coombs Conservative MP for Swindon 1983-1997

Anne Snelgrove South Swindon Labour MP 2005-2010

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