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22 October 2009

The Returning Officer

Oxford, part 2

By Stephen Brasher

Oxford was Tory from 1885 until 1966, with only a two-year gap – Frank Gray. His father Walter had risen from humble beginnings to become Tory mayor. But his attempt to become MP foundered and his son went into the law and then business with William Morris (the car-maker), providing Oxford’s first bus service. Morris eventually became a backer of Oswald Mosley. Gray, a Liberal, deposed the sitting Tory (who had beaten his father to selection) in 1922 but was forced out over his election expenses in 1924. It was even alleged that his supporters stopped Tory commuters leaving the station on election day. He then tried the life of a coal miner and even went on the road as a tramp, writing a book about his experiences. There was no “progressive” victory in the “Munich” by-election of 1938, or even 1945, when Frank Pakenham (Lord Longford) failed for Labour.

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