The election when 18,107 people signed one candidate’s nomination papers

Welcome to the 1950 general election and the Bury St Edmunds constituency. The Conservative candidate, William Aitken (nephew of Lord Beaverbrook and father of disgraced Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken), gathered 18,107 signatures on his nomination papers. Only 10 were required.

When it came to polling day, he secured 22,559 votes – a healthy margin of victory and also only a small margin beyond the nomination signature tally.

This is an extreme example of something that used to be common: having a large number of nomination signatures as a show of strength and making a fuss over their submission.

With political parties now looking at other ways of engaging supporters beyond their ranks of formal members, perhaps we’ll see someone pick up the idea of developing a wider network of supporters who publicly nominate a party’s candidates and a result start to have a closer connection to and involvement with the party even if they feel formal membership is a step too far. Getting people to agree to nominate a candidate would also be an interesting twist on accumulating a collection of voter pledges.


Maltese footnote

Aficionados of Liberal Democrat leadership hustings will also be pleased to note that William Aitken was a member of the 1955 round-table on Malta’s constitution. This led to the proposals that Malta be represented by three MPs in the Westminster House of Commons. Despite being supported by 77% of voters in a referendum the following year, this package of reforms fizzled out without being enacted.

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