The Returning Officer

Carlisle (II)

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.

This article first appeared in the 30 August 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Face off