Great footage from the 1969 Islington North Parliamentary by-election

Some things are rather different about elections in North Islington now compared with 1969, including the fame of the current MP. But as this report from the 1969 Islington North by-election shows – not everything.

Note in particular the early reference to immigration and housing.

Despite the less than flattering portrayal of levels of support for the Conservative candidate, he secured a 9.2% swing as Labour held the seat by just 1,534. The independent candidate, who gets a very favourable cut of the coverage, polled just 245 votes.

A reminder of the perils of such editorially selected decisions about how to portray people in the absence of good polling data to provide an objective frame of reference.

6 responses to “Great footage from the 1969 Islington North Parliamentary by-election”

  1. The Liberal candidate, Eric Thwaites, was a long-standing member of the Hastings Liberal Association and I remember him well from my time as agent in the early 1980s. Eric was a true Liberal but not a man of few words.

    If memory serves me correctly, the winning Labour candidate later joined the SDP but was regarded by Liberals as ‘a machine man whose machine has broken down’ to borrow a phrase from Alan Beith (?).

  2. Nice film. But the producer/presenter was a bit odd. I liked the Liberal.
    I believe Michael O’Halloran did indeed join the SDP, in fact was one of the last MPs to do so (?) Motivated more by deselection worries than by a desire to ‘break the mould’. I wonder who took over from him? (!)

  3. Amusing to see Michael O’Halloran being accused by his Tory opponent of “15 months of silence as a Labour councillor.”
    After his 1969 by-election victory, O’Halloran established a name for himself as “the hermit of Westminster”.
    Twelve years later, when Islington’s decaying Labour machine found that it was losing control of the local parties to the hard left, O’Halloran and a large group of councillors transferred their allegiance (real or nominal) to the SDP, giving us control of Islington Council and leading Shirley Williams to describe Islington as the SDP’s “jewel in the crown”.
    However, life in the SDP presented some of these converts from Labour with the difficulty that they were no more in sympathy with the liberal views of their new party’s members than with the hard left views that had prevailed in their old party. When the next local elections came round, these councillors did not survive the selection process.
    The leading member of this group was Bill Bayliss, whose ward I lived in. His tactic for achieving selection was to sign up 143 members in one go and present them all to SDP HQ (where I was working at the time), mostly with the minimum subsciption of £1. It was not successful.
    Meanwhile, Michael O’Halloran maintained his hard-won reputation by failing to appear at any of the borough members’ meetings throughout his period as “our” MP.
    In the 1983 general election, he did not seek selection as our candidate (as far as I can remember), and he stood against us as “Independent Labour”. He came fourth, gaining half as many votes as our candidate, John Grant, and a quarter as many votes as the winner, a young Jeremy Corbyn.

    • I remember a by-election in islington (1969 or later) where I was sent to canvass streets of Holloway Road; I was given leaflets in Urdu but the voters proved to be largely Cypriot.

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