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”.

 

This article first appeared in the 12 April 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Centenary Special Issue

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.