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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


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.

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