EMLYN HOOSON'S PARLIAMENTARY DEBUT: THE MONTGOMERYSHIRE BY- ELECTION OF 1962 J. GRAHAM JONES' Clement Davies represented Montgomeryshire in Parliament for nigh-on thirty-three years. First elected in the We Can Conquer Unemployment election of May 1929, he remained the county's M.P. at his death in March 1962. He thus faced his electorate on no fewer than eight occasions and was returned on most occasions by a substantial majority, twice indeed unopposed. In the general election of September 1959, however, in which he faced Labour and Conservative opponents (for the first time since 1950) in a closely fought contest, Davies's majority shrank to an unnerving 2,794, his lowest ever, a result which seemed to suggest that Montgomeryshire had become a highly marginal constituency, likely to fall into Conservative hands. Davies based his appeal largely on his impressive record as a diligent constituency M.P. with an innate understanding of the needs of Montgomeryshire folk, ever sensitive to their problems You see I'm one of them. I've shared their troubles from the beginning. My greatest wish has always been to be of help' 2 Jo Grimond, who had succeeded Davies as Liberal Party leader in 1956, recalled his predecessor as 'a man of extreme good- will As he travelled to and from Montgomery all sorts of people would buttonhole him about their troubles. He would listen patiently and invariably did what he could for them.'3 It was widely believed, therefore, that he enjoyed a substantial personal vote which might easily be lost to any Liberal successor. Davies's Labour opponent in 1959, D. Caradog Jones, a lecturer at Manchester University, plausibly depicted the electors' choice as either 'a sentimental vote' for Clement Davies or 'an up-and-coming, intelligent vote' for Labour. Davies's position had become increasingly insecure as the result of a growing polarisation in British politics. There was more and more speculation about 'the right drift of the Liberal traditionalist' into Macmillan's Conservative Party and 'the left drift of the radicals' into the Gaitskellite Labour Party, thus leaving a thin, insecure centre ground as Liberal territory. 5 Mary Garbett Edwards, Montgomeryshire's long-serving Liberal Party agent, fully sensitive to this course of events locally, saw the 1959 election as Davies's 'hardest fight since 1929'.6 Although Davies won through, he was now seventy-five years of age and it seemed likely that he had fought his last parliamentary election. 'This is now a marginal seat', proclaimed a jubilant Leslie Morgan, the defeated Conservative aspirant, 'We will do it next time'.7 Within months, Davies had announced his intention to retire from Parliament at the next general election — T realize that the time has come when you should have a younger man, someone able to represent you with all the courage, strength and vigour that is needed'.8 Both the other parties in the county reacted euphorically to this announcement, Leslie Morgan at once proclaiming: I Assistant Archivist, Department of Manuscripts and Records, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, SY23 3BU. 2Molltgomeryshire Express, 12 September 1959. 3Jo Grimond, Memoirs (London, 1979), 148. 4Molltgomeryshire Express, 3 October 1959. sIhid„ 12 September 1959. 6Ibid. 7lbid., 10 October 1959. xlhid., 4 June 1960.