General Election (1945)


[MUSIC PLAYING] My lords and members of
the House of Commons. By virtue of his
Majesty’s commission, under the great seal to us and
other lords directed and now read, we do, in his Majesty’s
name and in obedience to His Majesty’s commands,
prorogue this parliament to Tuesday, the 3rd day of July
1945 to be them here hold them. Today at the House of
Lords, the Lord Chancellor, after reading the King’s speech,
announced the dissolution of parliament. Great Britain is faced with
a new general election. Britain is divided into 640
parliamentary constituencies. It is probable that no one
of these is exactly typical, but we must tell our story
in terms of one of them. And so we settled upon
the division of Kettering in the county of
Northamptonshire. The division covers an
area of some 130,000 acres and has a population
of 74,000 people. There are those who
work in heavy industries such as in the manufacture
of iron and steel while others are in the
boot and shoe industry. Some are occupied
in agriculture, while a great number are small
traders in towns and villages. They have a choice of
three candidates with three different political creeds. One candidate is Councillor
John Dempsey, a local figure who represents an independent
doctrine of his own and is standing as
independent Christian. Mr. G.R. Mitchison, a barrister
at law in private life has been adopted by the Labour
Party as their candidate. The third is Lieutenant
Colonel John Profumo who represented Kettering in
the parliament just dissolved and is standing again
as conservative. Senator of all the division’s
election activities is the market town
of Kettering itself, where each candidate has his
headquarters and his agent– the impresario who organises
the whole campaign. It is the agent’s job to
arrange meetings, book halls, supervise printing of
posters and leaflets, fix transport, answer queries,
and deal with last minute breakdown of plans. His first step, before
any public meetings begin, is to arrange for the
candidate to address small local committees of
supporters who will be helping him with the campaign. And in conclusion,
ladies and gentlemen, I should like to assure
Colonel Profumo of very solid supported candidate. I will now ask him to address. [APPLAUSE] Frederick Robinson,
ladies and gentlemen. This evening, I’ve
come to tell you something about this
general election campaign and also what I want to
ask you to do for me. I’ve got three opponents
to fight at this election. The first and most
dangerous one is apathy. And the others are the
other two candidates. Now I want to ask you
to deal with the apathy and leave the other two
candidates for me to deal with. [APPLAUSE] Meanwhile, the Labour
candidate’s agent is arranging committee meetings for his
organisers and supporters. For they’re going to help Mr.
Mitchison to win his votes. Now the issues are
really nothing less than the future of this
country and whether we can have a lasting peace in the world. It matters enormously,
this election. You say you’ve got
to do something too. You’ve got to
canvas particularly. So you have to canvas
every street and every ward and every village. I know it’s not going
at be easy in that time, but we’ve got to get
everyone out on polling day. Mr. Chairman, I would like
meetings outside the factories because that is
very important if we wish to get our message across. Yes, certainly. Councillor Dempsey, being
an independent candidate without the resources of a
nationwide political party to back him, has his own
daughter to act as his agent. The first important event in
the election is nomination day. This is the day on which
each candidate comes to see the chief
election official– the returning officer, who in
this case is the town clerk. The nomination day
formalities are only a part of the returning officer’s job. His function carries
many responsibilities and he remains entirely
non-party throughout the whole election proceedings. Each candidate brings with
him his nomination papers with the names of a
proposer, a seconder, and [INAUDIBLE] senators. He also has to deposit
150 pounds in currency to show that he is of good faith
in standing for parliament. If he polls less than
1/8 of the total votes, he will forfeit this deposit. During the campaign, the
candidate and his agent work very closely together,
meeting at least twice a day to discuss their plan of action. Meanwhile, the
voluntary workers, recruited by the agent
and his organisers, get on with the work
of addressing envelopes and sending off circulars,
notices of meetings, and copies of the
candidate’s election address. Election addresses are sent
to every person entitled to a vote. And each candidate is
allowed one free postage for every voter in
the constituency. The election address
gives a broad outline of each candidate’s policy
and bears his photograph. So that every man and
woman who receives it will know what the candidate
stands for and what he looks like. At the time of this
election, Britain had a large number of her voting
public in the forces overseas. As their vote will carry
considerable weight in the final results, copies
of each candidate’s election address and the ballot
paper to vote on are dispatched under
supervision of the returning officer to members of the
forces all over the world. So that the soldier in Malta
or even the Burma jungle can vote for his home candidate. At election time,
an extra load is thrown onto the staff of
the postal service which serves as a link
between the candidates and those members of the public
whose business or household duties prevent them from
attending candidates’ meetings. So in this way, Mrs.
Green, the busy housewife, receives her copies of
the election addresses. As part of their
visionary policy, the candidates take an
interest in the youth of their constituency. Although these youngsters
are not yet entitled to vote, they will be tomorrow’s
party supporters. And in the meantime, they want
to learn what politics are all about, ready for when they
have a say in the government of their country. During the days before
polling day, candidates make personal contact
what the voting public all over the division. They go out to the men who work
on farms and in the fields. They tell all the workshops
of local industry and contact as many people as
they can individually. But only by getting to
know them individually can the candidate learn
the needs, hopes, and fears of the people he will
have to represent if he wins the election. He must also gain a
full understanding of their various problems so
that he can fight their battles while at the same time, the
opportunity of discussing both big national issues
and more personal problems man to man helps
the individual voter to gain confidence in him. In the meantime, the agents
rally every possible supporter to back up the candidate’s
personal efforts by house to house canvassing. Candidates themselves
spend their evenings addressing meetings in towns and
villages all over the division. People are becoming
addled by party slogans and by catchphrases which are
being talked of on the radio and mentioned in
all the newspapers. I believe in being
governed, but not in being spoonfed and kicked and
petted and cursed and praised and directed and fined
and licenced and exalted all the time. So if it’s houses you’re after,
I doubt promise of tomorrow. No one can do that. But far the quickest
way you will get them. Well beyond the lines I’d
been talking about just now. And they come first and foremost
in the Labour programme. I know I’m not claiming that I’m
superior because I’m standing as a Christian candidate. I say I need Christianity so
badly and Jesus Christ myself and I know all you do. And I know the world do. Mr. Dempsey, don’t you think
there is good a Christian in the Labour movement
as you are yourself? Possibly, but when Mr. Lansbury
was turned down at the Labour conference, I forget the year,
as a one and only Christian [INAUDIBLE] got into
the wrong party. Hi. Good morning Ms. Watts. You get it all straight lines. Well how do you get on
the curvy last night? Excellent. Very pleased indeed. The issue about
nationalisation is growing, but this is where a lot
of personal support. How many meetings
have we got tonight? Five. Five. Clipping, that’s a lot. Where are they? [INAUDIBLE] 6:30, first meeting. And don’t be late. I’ll be there. Ladies and gentlemen
of Lamport, here comes the National Conservative
candidate, Colonel John Profumo. Here he comes into the field. Now, Lamport, don’t forget, this
is your candidate and, we hope, your future member. Here he comes. Good evening, ladies
and gentlemen. Every day between now and
polling day on July the 5th, I’m coming around the villages
of my constituency in order that I may take my
political views to the men and women whom I
know are very busy in their ordinary, everyday jobs. I am standing, once again,
as a conservative candidate in support of the formation
of a national government. The press plays a very
important part in the campaign. During election time,
the local newspaper sends out reporters
to get interviews with all the candidates. Through the press,
are great people can be reached who may not
be able to get to meetings. In a town like Kettering, which
has only one daily newspaper, editorial policy aims at
being politically impartial, and endeavours to give
completely unbiased presentation of election news. In England, the freedom
of the press holds good. There is no question of
censorship or interference from outside. [MUSIC PLAYING] Polling day draws
near, and the wheels of the electioneering machinery
turn faster as everyone concerned throws more and
more effort into the campaign. Everything possible is
done by each candidate to catch the eyes and
ears of the voting public. It is a struggle to attract, to
impress, above all to convince that here is the man against
whose name they must put across on polling day. But the British public
are individuals. They watch and listen, but
they think for themselves. Already, everyone
is talking politics, and almost everyone is
taking part in the campaign. Windows of supporters
become display mediums for their candidates,
trees become billboards, and the ordinary business
of the day is coloured with discussions on
political viewpoints. In fact, every thinking
person in the British Isles looks on his country’s problems
as his own responsibility, and, of course, he tells
his friends what he would do if he were prime minister. [MUSIC PLAYING] At last, it is polling day. Mrs. Green has done a lot of
thinking in the last few weeks, and now her mind is made up. Inside the polling
station, she gives her name to the polling clerk who checks
it off the voters register. This contains the
name and address of every person in
the constituency who is entitled to a vote, and is
a safeguard against any person trying to vote more than once. The presiding officer issues the
ballot paper bearing the names of the three candidates. The ballot paper is stamped
with a special seal, the design of which is
secret until polling day, preventing anyone printing
a few extra ballot papers on their own. Mrs. Green takes
the ballot paper into a screened partition
where, free from observation, she puts a cross against the
name of her selected candidate. The folded ballot paper is
then put into the ballot box in front of the
presiding officer. [MUSIC PLAYING] On polling day, candidates make
a tour of the constituency. There are polling booths
all over the division, and the final visit
by the candidate to rally his supporters
can mean a few extra votes, which may be, for him,
the deciding factor. [MUSIC PLAYING] 9:00 PM, the limit of the
extension to polling hours. The voting, which has gone on
since 8 o’clock in the morning, must now stop. The people have had their
last chance to vote, and the doors are locked. The ballot boxes containing
the country’s verdict are sealed up until
the day of the count. [BELL TOLLS] From each polling
station in the division, the sealed ballot
boxes are transported, under careful supervision,
to the main police station in Kettering
where they are stored in cells for safekeeping. [MUSIC PLAYING] Meanwhile, the forces overseas
have received their election addresses and ballot papers. Rightly concerned about
the kind of government they think will do
most for their country in the difficult
years that lie ahead, they have their
voice in the matter. They have their vote. Normally, the count takes place
the day after polling day, but in this election
it is held up until the forces’ ballot
papers have been flown back from the various fronts. [MUSIC PLAYING] On the day of the count, the
seals on the ballot boxes are broken. The boxes are unlocked and the
ballot papers are tipped out onto long tables for counting. The count takes place
in the main hall of a large school in Kettering,
central town of the division. The clerks who do this
job are civil servants who have been released
from their ordinary work and are paid especially for
their services on this day. But the watchers who
stand behind them are voluntary members
of the general public. Each candidate may appoint 20
of these voluntary scrutineers to see that the counting
is correctly carried out. The votes for each candidate
are counted into blocks of 50. The blocks are then
carried to tables where each candidate’s
votes are laid out, ready for the final count. Meanwhile, outside the
building, the crowds are gathering, eager
to hear the result. [MUSIC PLAYING] Before the final
figures are announced, the returning officer checks
the badly recorded votes with the candidates,
who mutually agree which shall be counted and
which shall be declared void. [MUSIC PLAYING] Ladies and gentlemen,
I have to announce the result of the poll
for the Kettering division for the Parliamentary
County of Northampton with the Silk of Peterborough. The voting is as follows. John Chamberlain
Dempsey 2,381 votes. Gilbert Richard
Murchison, 29,868 votes. And John Dennis
Profumo 23,424 votes. And I therefore declare
Gilbert Richard Murchison the duly elected
member of Parliament for the Kettering division. [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE] It’s my very great pleasure
to move a vote of thanks to Mr. Cheston and his staff. But before I come to that,
I want, first of all, to say one or two other words. First– Well, it may not be
what everybody wanted, but it’s what the majority want. And the man who has
won the most votes will represent the
division of Kettering in the new Parliament. [MUSIC PLAYING] Very soon, the new
member for Kettering enters the House of
Commons for the first time, when he goes to take the
oath before the Speaker. And from that day, he becomes a
paid member of the legislature. Finally, the King opens
the new Parliament, and Britain settles down to
solve her current problems under the leadership of a
new government chosen freely by her people. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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