Orpington Man Tops George Galloway

George Galloway, with characteristic modesty, has declared his Bradford West by-election victory the most sensational in British history. Historian John Curtice begs to differ, noting a number of more remarkable by-election results.

But even Curtice missed another by-election that outclasses Galloway’s result. The week before last was the 50th anniversary of Eric Lubbock’s stunning win for the Liberals in Orpington. I had the pleasure to work with Mr. Lubbock (now Lord Avebury) on a bill recently and he has the same delightful, impish smile today as he displays in this wonderful old newsreel from the election night of 1962.

A great deal of political analysis was inspired by Lubbock’s upset victory, with many sociological theories put forth about the emergence of a new kind of suburban voter (The “Orpington Man”) who would leave the Tory party of MacMillan and make the Liberals dominant once more. None of these theories panned out for the Liberals, so perhaps Lord Avebury’s simpler explanation for his Orpington triumph is closer to the truth:

It was bitterly cold during the March of 1962, and the Conservative candidate spent most of the campaign sitting in a heated caravan, which didn’t go down too well on the doorstep. In contrast, we were out in all weathers.