The Returning Officer: This House

James Graham’s play This House (currently at the National Theatre) shows the whittling away of the 1974-79 Labour government’s majority. Brian O’Malley, MP for Rotherham (1963-76), who dies in the Commons during the play, had, before his election, been a teacher and run a dance band.

In the June 1976 by-election, the second-last place went to Peter Bishop of the World Grid Sunshine Room Party. Bishop had stood in the 1975 Woolwich West by-election and went on to stand at Thurrock in July 1976.

The Liverpool Edge Hill by-election came the day after the Labour government lost a vote of confidence in 1979. Joan Jonker, who was later to become a successful romantic novelist, stood as a victims of crime candidate and was described in the Liverpool Echo by Anne Robinson as “remarkably nice . . . considering her views on punishment were only slightly less severe than the Ayatollah Khomeini’s”.