The last time the Conservatives won Carlisle from Labour in a general election before this May was in 1955. The winning candidate was the remarkable Donald McIntosh Johnson, a doctor and publisher. His victory was aided by the standing aside of the Liberal candidate Kenneth Wolstenholme, who had accepted a job with the BBC. Johnson had previously stood as a Liberal (Bury, 1935; Bewdley, 1937) and Independent Liberal (Chippenham, 1943 and 1945), before changing alleigance and co-authoring a pamphlet (Design for Freedom) advocating merger of the two parties. In 1950, while running a hotel in Woodstock he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, maintaining ever afterwards that he had been drugged with cannabis.
He went on to publish the book Indian Hemp: a Social Menace and campaigned on mental health issues in the Commons. In 1964, he stood as an Independent Conservative but finished last, as Labour regained the seat.