LOOKING BACK - May 7 edition

Announcing Rugby's 1918 general election result
Announcing Rugby's 1918 general election result

General election 1918

Wouldn’t it be good if this week’s results had been announced like this?

This was the 1918 general election and you might recognise the people are standing outside the Benn Buildings in High Street, now Marks & Spencer.

I spent a fascinating afternoon at the library researching this picture (and a couple more from other years for next week) and here’s what I’ve found: The result was being announced at about 1.30pm on Saturday, December 28, although voting had actually taken place on Saturday, December 14. (The delay was to enable the votes of soldiers serving overseas to be collected.) And it was apparently the first time in history that all the country’s elections were held on the same day.

The deputy returning officer pictured with the list in his hand is HM Blenkinsop and Major John Baird, on the left, a Conservative supporter of the Coalition government, who had been Rugby’s MP since 1910, was re-elected with a majority of 3,926.

Major Baird, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Ministry, polled 11,325 votes to Liberal candidate OF Maclagan’s 7,399.

The account says his majority was well in excess of the estimates of his most sanguine supporters and the figures were received with cheers. Nationally the Coalition swept the board, with Mr Lloyd George returned to power with a majority of 262 over the non-Coalition parties. The House of Commons was to consist of 707 members.

Our December 21 edition reported that considering the important issues at stake, voting the previous week was singularly devoid of excitement or incident.

“In all reports from all quarters reference is made to the apathy of the electors and this state of affairs was faithfully reflected in Rugby. None but the really ardent partisans appeared to take any real interest in the contest. The poll in the town was a very light one, but the ladies who were able to vote for the first time at a parliamentary election turned up in much larger numbers than did the men.

“The polling stations were open from 7am to 9pm, but at no time was there any real rush of voters.

“Major Baird toured the division in his car and everywhere he was enthusiastically received. Mr Maclagan also visited most of the polling stations during the day.”