Mrs. Thatcher returned
Perhaps in the end the result was rather inevitable.
But during the three-week campaign, there were some anxious and worried looks and some quiet words which gave the clue that Mrs. Margaret Thatcher would not be returned to Westminster so overwhelmingly.
Indeed, her majority was cut: not dramatically but enough to raise some questions.
However, in the large and high-ceilinged hall at the Middlesex Polytechnic in Hendon last Friday morning her result was known: she had remained Finchley MP and a key figure in the Conservative opposition.
And under the gaze of television cameras and in a voice that was cracked and strained after so much talking in the campaign she spoke of the “loyal and determined” support which had returned her to the House of Commons.
The result was probably expected but the size of her reduced 3,911 majority will be placed under some scrutiny.
During the campaign it was obvious that the Tories had that usual geared organisation and resources but the Labour Party, especially, and the Liberals did have character: a determination and enthusiasm.
But Tory agent Mr. Roy Langstone said this week that he was not particularly worried during the campaigning except over the strain being applied on Mrs. Thatcher.
He agreed that her campaign had been physically tough: certainly she was required each day by the media to give some kind of interview or be photographed or be involved in a television studio debate or have to make a party political broadcast.
And in the time that remained she spoke in support of other Tory candidates and to more than 3,000 residents in the constituency. There was, too, a series of public meetings.
From the campaign the strengths and weaknesses were seen, too. Said Mr. Langstone: “We know where our strength is now and we know where the weakness is. We know where the work will have to be done.”
He blamed the low turn out for the cut in Mrs. Thatcher's majority.
He said: “In a predominantly Tory constituency and a predominantly Socialist area, a low poll does naturally affect the majority. In Finchley nobody else gained.
Mr. Langstone said he was “content” with the result.
He added, “If we had believed the opinion polls then there would have been some risk.”
Labour candidate Cr. Martin O'Connor said he was certainly “encouraged” by the result which saw him gain a slight rise in support: a swing of two per cent.
“In this constituency we did see that people really only want a two-party system and that we are the opposition,” he said.
“It is true to say that we should have had 2,000 more votes,” he said. “Our people did not turn out but believed the opinion polls.”
An “inquest” discussion on the election was being run by the Finchley Labour Party's executive committee on Wednesday evening.
Cr. O'Connor added:
“We cannot be satisfied with second place and our position is certainly one of strength and support.
“It cannot be long before a Labour candidate is returned from Finchley,” he added.
Indeed, even Mr. Langstone said Cr. O'Connor had gained a “creditable” result in this election.
Liberal candidate Mr. Laurence Brass said he was despondent—especially after his hopes of six months ago.
Mr. Brass is now walking a political tightrope which could either see him remain as candidate or see him evicted from this particular political arena.
He would not comment on the situation and it is expected to be some weeks before his role is examined.
“Obviously,” he said, “this is something which I cannot comment about and it would be wrong for me to say anything.”
He stressed that like the Tories and the Socialists his supporters had simply ignored the polling booths. “My Liberals did not go to anyone else,” he said.
In the midst of shouts in her after-election speech National Front candidate Mrs. Janet Godfrey said either herself or another of her party's candidates would return to stand next time. “From little acorns larger oaks grow,” she said.
Such a move made Cr. O'Connor comment that it was “worrying” , that a neoNazi party could gain the support of nearly 1,000 people.(2) Finchley Times, 18 October 1974:
A birthday bonus for Mrs Thatcher
Another victory for the Conservatives in Finchley and Friern Barnet gave Mrs Margaret Thatcher an early birthday present. The former Minister of Education, a mother of twins, was 49 on Sunday.
Her share of the poll went down, but absentees gave the Liberals an even bigger blow.
Their candidate, Councillor Laurence Brass, was bitterly disappointed, not only that the Liberals finished behind the two major parties, but that they lost almost one third of their support compared with February.
He polled 7,384 votes, compared with well over 11,000 seven months ago, when he was only 1,000 votes behind Labour's Councillor Martin O'Connor.
Councillor Brass said later: “There was a low turnout, but we have to face facts. The polling figures show that those 4,000 people who voted Liberal last time didn't voted Liberal last time didn't vote for anyone this time. They just stayed at home. Of course I am disappointed.”
He added that however hard his supporters worked, they could not fight a national swing.
He agreed with Councillor Michael Colne, candidate for Hendon South, that Christopher Mayhew's shift to the Liberal Party might have alienated many Jewish voters in Finchley and Friern Barnet.
Mrs. Thatcher, who spent all but two days of the campaign working in the constituency she has represented since 1959, had her majority cut by 2,048 in polling 16,498 votes.
She warned, after the result was announced, that the Conservatives would be ready to do battle again if the Labour victory was a narrow one.
Councillor O'Connor, who also stood in the February election, managed a slight increase in his vote, with 12,587.
He said it was a very good result for the Labour Party, adding: “I wish Mrs Thatcher luck but remind her that the future belongs to us.”
The National Front candidate, Mrs Janet Godfrey, polled less than 1,000 votes and lost her deposit.