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1959 election marked the start Tories slow decline in Scotland

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In 1959, as a junior reporter of only a few weeks, I had my first taste of covering a general election. In those days politicians used their right to free use of school halls for election meetings and even the rawest recruit to the paper had to report on them.

My abiding memory is that the Conservatives draped the speaker’s table with the Union flag and that because they were public meetings there was always at least one heckler in the hall. Candidates would do several meetings in a day.

I worked for the Leamington Morning News, the smallest daily paper in the UK. Only Conservative and Labour candidates were contesting the Warwick and Leamington seat.

John Hobson, later attorney general, was defending the seat which he had won two years before following Anthony Eden’s post-Suez resignation.

His Labour opponent William Wilson,went on to win a Coventry seat and earned his place in history piloting the Divorce Reform Act of 1969. That changed the grounds for divorce from matrimonial offences to the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage.

Two of my senior colleagues decided Hobson was not seeing how the other half lived and arranged to go with him to a council estate. They chose a house at random, knocked on the door.

It was not what they expected. There were thick fitted carpets and the tenant welcomed Hobson, opened a well-stocked cocktail cabinet and offered him a drink.

England was changing and the Conservatives won the election with an increased majority. Looking back, the most significant change in 1959 was that for the first time the Conservatives won fewer seats than Labour in Scotland.

This year the Conservatives are fighting to retain their last toe hold in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale: a 2% advantage for the SNP according to Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll but the margin for error means it is too close to call.

Labour is also facing wipe-out at the hands of the SNP.

If we count the change in Scottish politics from 1959, the evolution has taken 56 years.

 

 

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