David Dutton

Articles by this author

David Dutton

The Decline of Liberalism in Dumfriesshire: Was It the Standard Wot Done It?

Recent, History

TDGNHAS Series III, 85 (2011), 143(3.42 MB)


In its editorial on 14 December 1963 the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser declared, ‘The fact must be faced, Liberalism in Dumfriesshire is on its deathbed and nothing short of a miracle will revive it.’ The evidence for such a statement was strong. In the by-election occasioned by the elevation to the peerage of the sitting member, Niall Macpherson, and whose result had just been declared, the Liberal party, fielding a candidate in the constituency for the first time since the General Election of 1945, had secured a derisory 4,491 votes and forfeited its deposit. This figure, suggested the Standard, was ‘amazingly small’. ‘No juggling of the figures can produce a single crumb of comfort for the Liberals.’ The party’s candidate, Charles Abernethy, and his supporters had ‘put everything they had into the campaign, but however strong Liberalism in Dumfriesshire may have been in the past the by-election figures show that the new generation of voters are thinking along different lines’. A week later, following the publication of two critical letters in its correspondence columns, the newspaper felt it necessary to defend itself against the charge that it had itself contributed to the Liberal party’s predicament because ‘it did not throw its whole weight behind the Party, as in the old days’. A newspaper’s primary function, the Standard argued, is ‘to give a fair and unbiased account of the news, particularly in the controversial field of politics’. If, then, the Dumfriesshire Liberals were looking for a scapegoat for the result of the poll, ‘they must look elsewhere. We have no intention of accepting the role.’