Saturday, June 29, 2019

Brecon and Radnorshire and Nigel Tufnell

With a by-election taking place Brecon and Radnorshire, I have naturally been thinking of the 1985 by-election in Brecon and Radnor, as it was then called.

That contest was caused by the death of the sitting Conservative Tom Hooson, who was a cousin of Emlyn Hooson, the former Liberal MP for neighbouring Montgomery.

Tom Hooson had gained the seat at the 1979 general election, but for 40 years before that it had been held by Labour.

So, in contrast to the contest taking place there at the moment, the 1985 by-was a fight between Labour and the Liberals.

I was between engagement sat the time and so was able to spent several days in Brecon and Radnor. On polling day I was in Cwmtwrch near Ystradgynlais.

Situated at the very north of the Valleys, it was a strongly Labour area. One of my memories of the day is having a gang of small boys practically fighting each other for the honour of delivering my Liberal leaflets in a close where every house had a Labour poster.

Elsewhere in the constituency the demographics were different and the landscape was stunning.
I have heard that Lloyd George got a mention in some of our leaflets, which reminds me of a story I have told here before:
A young Liberal activist was telling at a polling station out in the wilds somewhere, when an elderly farmer turned up. 
"What are you doing?" he asked. "I always take the numbers for the Liberals."
It turned out that for years the farmer had come along on polling day, collected numbers for a couple of hours and then taken them home with him. 
It represented a folk memory of Lloyd George's day. Any Liberal organisation in the area had long since disappeared. All the was left was the ancestral knowledge that taking numbers somehow helped the party.
Labour had held Brecon and Radnor for the 40 years up to 1979 because they had won a by-election there in 1939. It took place on 1 August, just as this year’s contest will.

At the 1935 general election Labour lost to a National Government supporting Conservative. It’s candidate was Leslie Haden-Guest, the father of the diplomat, dance and choreographer Peter Haden-Guest.

And Peter was the father of the actor Christopher Guest, best known for playing Nigel Tufnell in Spinal Tap.

As Leslie Haden-Guest had been made a hereditary peer in 1950 and the title had passed down to Christopher, Nigel Tufnell was a member of the House of Lords for three years before Tony Blair’s reforms removed most of the hereditaries in 1999.


nigel hunter said...

I trust this time we will have a permanent person with a mobile phone who can send the info by satellite not on the back of a sheep.!LoL
Yes,we need a constituency representative who is always there monitoring the situation..

Frank Little said...

Rob Orchard, a retired BBC political correspondent, recalled on Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement of the 1985 by-election that Labour spent most of their time shielding their candidate from the media. The fearsome Vincent Hanna was then in his prime.

Jonathan Calder said...

The person charged with keeping him from the media was a young Peter Mandelson.