Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Election Memories

As I write, we are in the period of a General Election - although, as these things go, this one, so far at least, has been remarkably quite locally.

Its time though to recall what, for some reason, is one of my strongest memories. It is from February 1950 (I was 11) when I found myself standing in the yard of the old National Schools on Station Road - then the headquarters of 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts, now the site of the recently closed Fire Station - looking over the wall to watch the excited crowd around the door of the Station Road Sunday School hall opposite. In the centre of the excitement was Martin Redmayne, the Conservative candidate who was emerging from his eve-of-poll meeting. The next day, the 23rd February, he was elected as the member for Rushcliffe Parliamentary Constituency.

In those days - and continuing up the major boundary changes in 1983 - Beeston was part of Rushcliffe Constituency which then, as now, also included West Bridgford and a large area of rural Nottinghamshire south of the Trent. It had been that way since 1885 and, for over 30 years, up to 1918, returned a Liberal member - first John Ellis who died during the election of December 1910, followed by Leifchild (known as Leif) Jones. During the inter-war period, and continuing up the Labour landslide of 1945, Rushcliffe returned Conservative representatives - Henry Betteton up to 1934, followed by Ralph Assheton. In 1945, following the national trend, Florence Paton was elected for the Labour Party.

When he was selected to contest the Constituency for the Conservatives, Martin Redmayne, born in 1910, was seen as an ideal candidate. He had served in the Sherwood Foresters during the war, commanding the 14th Battalion in Italy in 1943 and the 66th Infantry Brigade in 1944/5. After the war he had returned to continue to run the Redmayne & Todd sports outfitters business in Nottingham and was therefore quite well known locally. When I was taken to the shop , before Christmas, probably of 1948 or 1949, to choose a present, he was serving in the shop and I remember my father speaking to him about his selection.

He was to serve as the local MP for 16 years until, in 1966, he was narrowly defeated by Anthony Gardner for Labour - who, in turn, was overturned by Kenneth Clarke who holds the Rushcliffe seat to this day. Redmayne was created a baronet in 1964 and made a life peer in 1966. He died in 1983.

So - as I look back on that moment in 1950 as the candidate emerged amongst the cheering crowd of local supporters, it seems that much of the truly local atmosphere - something that was enough to capture the interest of an 11 year-old - has been lost in the last 60 years. It is certainly in sharp contrast with today's largely national campaigns, fought on TV, on Twitter and in blogs !

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