As the first stroke of nine reverberated across the river on Friday morning, the police officer standing in the shadow of Big Ben clock tower was approached by Mr. Norman Dodds, re-elected Member of Parliament for Dartford.
Mr. Dodds was leading a delegation of members of the Dartford branch of U.N.A., including the Mayor (Councillor Mrs. Flora Welch), the chairman (Mr. W. G. Phillips), and the hon. secretary (Mrs. T. Dalby). A letter containing a question addressed to the Prime Minister dealing with the outlawing of the hydrogen bomb was handed to the officer by the Mayor.
At 2.30 the same morning Mr. Dodds had been declared elected with a majority of 13,638 votes.
He immediately expressed the belief that he would have the support of all people in the borough, irrespective of politics or religion, in submitting for inclusion at the first question-time in the newly-elected House the following question:—
"Mr. Dodds—to ask the Prime Minister if he is aware of the passionate desire of the people that he should take the initiative in endeavouring to call a conference with the object of finding ways and means of outlawing the hydrogen bomb and atomic weapons."
After delivering the letter the delegation went to U.N.A. Headquarters at Maiden-lane, W.C., where they saw the secretary (Mr. C. J. Judd), who was delighted with the effort Dartford U.N.A. were making on a subject in which public opinion had to be roused.
The Mayor will call a meeting of all Churches, organisations, business houses, etc., to discuss the possibility of holding a large meeting on the subject in the future.
The count took place at Dartford Grammar School and a crowd of about 100 was eagerly waiting when the result was declared at 2.30 a.m. as follows:—
Previously, inside the hall, the three candidates shook hands after a few introductory remarks from the Mayor of Dartford and Mr. Dodds said how pleased he was that it was the Mayor's lot to make such an important announcement.
"I would like to say to Mr. Armstrong (Town Clerk of Dartford) and his staff that I am sure the other candidates will agree with me that the work has been carried out efficiently and with great courtesy," he added.
Of the police, Mr. Dodds said that generally they were a great comfort to people inside the polling booths and he congratulated them on the able way they had carried out their duties.
He thought both of his opponents had put up a marvellous show.
"A Clean Fight"
"I think there is no difference in the amount of sincerity; I respect them very much" Mr. Dodds went on. "There is no constituency in the country which has had a cleaner fight than we have had."
He thanked his supporters for the way they had assisted him to be head of the poll and hoped all the people in the constituency would quickly forget differences of opinion in regard to politics. They all had to live together and they could fight again for their principles. In the meantime, he hoped they would be good citizens.
In conclusion, Mr. Dodds referred to his imminent visit to the House of Commons, with officials of the local branch of U.N.A., to hand in a question asking the Prime Minister to take early steps to call a conference with the object of finding ways and means to outlaw the hydrogen bomb and atomic weapons.
Opponents Good Wishes
Miss Roberts added her thanks to the Mayor and the Town Clerk and his staff for the way they had officiated at the election with the minimum amount of trouble and the maximum amount of efficiency.
She wished Mr. Dodds as happy a time in the new Parliament as in the last, and to her own supporters she offered her grateful thanks.
She had never known a group of people work harder. "You sign on for next time to-morrow morning," she told them.
Mr. Giles also supported and thanked his own small band of followers. He was badly handicapped in being a late starter, and he thought the Liberals had done "Jolly well."
In keeping with the rest of the country, polling was very high, 85.67 per cent. voting out of an electorate of 79,089.
Over 14,000 more votes were cast than in 1945. As the electorate has increased by only 4,622 that meant that over 9,000 persons who did not go to the poll last time voted this year. The increase was approximately 14 per cent.
Mr. Dodds' majority fell by 6,077, but his poll increased by 1,462. Miss Roberts took 7,539 more votes than her predecessor, Major R. E. W. Grubb, in 1945, and lowered the gap between Labour and Conservative from 19,715 to 13,638, despite the intervention of Mr. Harry Giles, the Liberal.
61 Spoiled Papers
A presiding officer commented that the 7 a.m. opening of polling stations had been fully justified. There had been a "very brisk trade" all day long, and no slack periods.
The Acting Returning Officer (Town Clerk Mr. T. Armstrong) who, with the Mayor, spent 10 hours touring the 100 polling stations in the constituency, told the Kentish Times: "I have experienced in some capacity or other elections since 1923, and from my angle this has been the quietest. I had no complaints from the polling stations about anything."
Spoiled papers numbered 61. Some voters put their crosses against the name of a candidate, and then added remarks against the names of other candidates. This led to disqualification, as did the fact that some people dispensed with the legal cross and put their polling numbers in the space provided.
Mr. Norman Dodds
Mr. Dodds, in an interview, told our reporter: "I was particularly impressed during the election by the fervour of many of my supporters, who showed a great deal of enthusiasm. I shall endeavour to be a Member who will look after the interests of all[fo 1] in the time open to me in this new government.
"Not one of the political Parties is satisfied with the result, but in view of the very high poll, I cannot see that any good can come out of an election in the near future. There may be some decisive result when the new register comes into effect.
"Sufficient of the people have clearly indicated that there must be a halt to further nationalisation and I think we will be very wise to accept that. From a personal point of view I am more than ready to accept it, because I recognise that the average man-in-the-street cannot as yet fully appreciate what nationalisation has meant to those basic industries already taken over. Until we can prove that nationalisation is a decided advantage we cannot expect the mass of the people to be enthusiastic.
"I do claim that there is not a constituency in the country in which opponents fought a cleaner fight. Although we differ in politics, I recognise their sincerity. We have emerged from the hustings very good friends.
"My final tribute is to my wife, who added to her grand work during the whole of the election period by making effective use of the platform at later meetings."
Miss Margaret Roberts
Miss Roberts said: "I am back at work this week, but shall continue to live in Dartford. We are all very, very cheerful over the result, and our workers are very determined indeed to do even better next time.
"It is really amazing the offers of active help offered in the past few days for the next election. People who had previously merely supported us with their votes are now flocking to join us and become active members. We are all very encouraged about it.
"I shall certainly not be leaving Dartford—not by any means—and I hope I shall be the candidate at the next election. Compared with the results all over the country and with the other parts of Kent, we are very pleased with what we did and we are determined to reverse the result next time. Our workers were magnificent—I cannot thank them enough—and they have been absolutely magnificent about the result.
"They are literally straining at the leash to get going again and have not given my agent, Mr. R. W. Mills, a moment's peace since Friday. I myself went away for the week-end before returning to work but found myself sitting down making plans for the future.
"The election result leaves the Socialists in power, but they will reap the harvest of their own wild oats. They cannot be arrogant now without their steam roller majority. Had we had that small majority, they would have played it up and made a lot of trouble."
Mr. Harry Giles
Mr. Harry Giles said: "I made many friends in Dartford, where the spirit of the Liberals is akin to that I found among soldiers in the desert during the North African campaign.
"Considering that two of the three weeks I spent in the Division were devoted to organisation and only one to electioneering, I must say that I think our poll was very high. In readiness for any future election the Liberal Association in Dartford will be built up. We shall re-form the association in a few weeks' time; already we have the names of many young Liberals eager to get on with the job.
"This time the split-vote issue was the main reason for our downfall—it virtually killed us at the time. But the Liberals should not take their defeat badly. After all, there are still 2,750,000 people who want Liberalism according to the voting. Liberals should go on fighting for what they think is right. They must educate the youngsters—must teach them Liberalism.
"If the Parties went to the country again in a few months, they would discover that people had not changed their minds in such a short time. I think the only thing Members can do is to try to work together, even if it is only for eighteen months or two years. They should sink their Party differences and try to get the country back on a good economic basis. They should think about the country and not about the Party."