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Robin Marlar appeals to voters in Bolsover during his unsuccessful run for Parliament in 1959

A different kind of stump

Throwback Thursday


A different kind of stump

Politics and cricket have often shared the headlines. Rebel tours to South Africa and the ramifications for their participants dominated the sports pages in 1980s and 1990s but on a domestic level it’s always been widely assumed that cricketers in England have Conservative-leaning tendencies, even if it’s conservatism with a small c.

Three former Sussex captains have run for Parliament, Ted Dexter, Robin Marlar and CB Fry.

It’s no surprise to discover that Dexter, whose aristocratic air
earned him the moniker Lord Ted when he became England’s chairman of selectors, wore the true blue Tory rosette when he stood in 1964 in the Cardiff South constituency.

Anecdotal evidence of what the Welsh miners, steelworkers and dockers who made up a large part of the constituency made of Ted, who was often accompanied on the stump by his model wife Susan, is hard to find, although he is alleged to have told one hustings that they should not think that Eton only qualified their children for careers in banking or politics. Why no, he insisted, he had personally met old Etonians who were bookmakers and racing correspondents! Dexter himself spent the off-season, when he wasn’t reeling off stylish centuries for England, working in an advertising agency in the City.

Dexter was up against Jim Callaghan, a future Labour prime minister who came into the contest defending a majority of just 868. In a two-horse race Dexter creditably polled more than 22,000 votes – but Callaghan still increased his majority by nearly 8,000. And that was the end of Dexter’s Westminster ambitions.

Marlar never got into Parliament either, but how many politicians fought elections more than 30 years apart for two different parties like he did?

In 1959 Marlar polled a respectable 22% share of the vote in the Labour stronghold of Bolsover in Derbyshire with more than 9,000 votes for the Conservatives. In another two-horse race the sitting Labour MP Harold Neal attracted more than 32,000.

By 1993 Marlar had switched allegiances to the Referendum party, the Eurosceptic group founded by the millionaire Sir James Goldsmith, who would give the Tories a bloody nose during the 1997 General Election poll before quietly folding.

Marlar stood in the by-election in Newbury, the first poll since John Major’s General Election triumph the previous year. With anti-Europe feeling running high the Lib-Dems took the Tory stronghold with a swing of 29%. 19 candidates made it one of the longest ballot papers in election history and Marlar finished ninth, picking up 338 votes and losing his deposit.

Back in the 1920s, CB Fry stood in the General Elections of 1922 and 1923 for the Liberal party, first in Brighton and then the following year in Banbury. Although he polled 22% of the vote in Brighton he failed to dislodge the Unionist candidate. A year later he came within 219 votes of overturning the Unionists in Banbury. Back for more in 1924, this time in the Oxford by-election, he again came second.

George Cox – he loved batting and sweating off the pounds in his home-made sauna

George R. Cox

Throwback Thursday


It’s rare for one long-standing Sussex record to be broken in a game never mind two so it’s no wonder the county’s supporters were dusting off their copies of Wisden at the weekend after a debut to remember for 21-year-old Ollie Robinson.

Signed just a few days earlier after impressing in the second team, Robinson became the first Sussex batsman to score a hundred on debut in the County Championship since 1920 while his last-wicket partnership with Matthew Hobden (whose career-best 65 was somewhat overshadowed) of 164 was the highest in Sussex’s history, beating a record lodged by Harry Butt and George Cox Senior that had stood for 107 years.

Cox and Butt. It sounds like a firm of Sussex solicitors but in the years before the First World War they were involved in two heroic last-wicket stands.

The 156 they put on against Cambridge University at Fenner’s in 1908 might be scoffed at nowadays but back then the student teams often provided players for England and were as strong as most county sides.

Two years earlier, when Sussex played neighbours Hampshire at Chichester, Cox and Butt scored 113 together.

Cox was one of the finest cricketers Sussex produced in the first half of the 20th century. He would often come in down the order, sometimes even at No.11, but as his place in the record books attest he was a terrific competitor with the bat, who sold his wicket dearly.

Until last Sunday, his name figured in the best three stands for Sussex’s last wicket, the 130 he put on with George Stannard against Essex in 1919 being the county record in the Championship until Robinson and Hobden came together at Durham last Sunday.

Cox, whose son George Junior also played for Sussex, was first and foremost a bowler, good enough to take 1,810 wickets between 1895-1928, a tally beaten only by the great Maurice Tate. He once took 17 wickets in a match at his club ground, Horsham, having walked to the ground every day from his home in nearby Warnham and sweated off a celebratory pint or two at the end of each day’s play in a rudimentary sauna at the back of his house he built himself.

Bearing in mind the tenth wicket record stood since 1908 it could be a while before the efforts of Robinson and Hobden are beaten. After such an outstanding performance they deserve their place in the history books for a few years anyway.

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