Mock Election

1964 saw a General Election in the UK. The Conservatives, led by Sir Alec Douglas-Home, had been in power since 1951 but were under increasing pressure from a revitalised Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson. In those days the Liberal Party, led by Jo Grimond, was fairly irrelevant. We who were 18 at the time could not, of course, vote. At Grange, it was decided to hold a mock election which would enhance our education of the democratic process. In the 1964 magazine DG Wright (History teacher) describes the event:

It has been argued that a mock election provides excellent training in ‘civics’. Our excuse at Grange, where of course conditions are ideal for the growth of a Marxist proletariat, was characteristically materialistic. We merely wished to inject an element of fun and games into an election campaign which was boring us all to tears, and to offset a considerable proportion of our education, which tends to have the same effect. We succeeded. The campaign was vigorous, and, although the 3C anarchist fringe refrained from actually throwing their smoke bombs, meetings were splendidly rowdy. At a more prosaic level, posters were prepared and exhibited and the Mathematical Sixth conducted daily opinion polls to aid those with psephological aspirations.

Another contrast with the irrelevant affair outside was provided by the fact that the quality of our candidates was high. Dodds possessed the loquaciousness and air of smooth superiority typical of the best Conservative candidates, and created visions of the day when half the cabinet will have been educated at the Civic Playhouse. Wilson, the Labour candidate, gave the impression of quiet confidence usually associated with his more famous (or notorious, according to taste) name-sake. Here, one thought, was a man who might well have a knowledge of economics beyond the matchstick level, and whom one could envisage fortifying himself for the cares of office with copious draughts of tonic wine and lashings of HP sauce. George Sutcliffe, somewhat surprisingly, appeared as a Liberal rather than the anticipated Communist or Fascist. Representing the Lloyd-George rather than the young curate-clean living-compulsory games Grimond tradition of Liberalism and assisted by a picturesque election committee, he threw himself with energy into the attack on major party monopoly and sixth form privilege. All made excellent speeches to the assembled school and, despite the close proximity of temptation over the next wall, none were the object of Profumo-like smears and innuendoes. Neither did the Smethwickian ‘keep Grange selective’ platform appear.

The poll was over 90 per cent (after all one escaped a lesson to vote) and the sweet Tory dream of a Conservative working class was realised, though only just, when Dodds polled 243 votes, against 225 for Wilson and 71 for Sutcliffe. Thanks to the conscientious work of the Upper Sixth, the actual polling failed to raise the same shades of Eatanswill as the party meetings. Now we all eagerly await the mini epidemic of influenza on the government benches which will give us another opportunity of rushing to the hustings.

The 1964 General Election saw a Labour victory:Labour 317 seats, Conservatives 303, Liberals 9, giving an overall majority of only 5. This narrow majority led to another election in 1966 where Labour extended its majority to 97.