AS THE three main political parties prepare for another General Election, let us look at the national and local histories of the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal parties over the past.

The modern Conservative party has its origins in the period of “Tory Democracy”, which was introduced by Benjamin Disraeli in the late 1870s. Before then William Pitt was declared a “Tory” Prime Minister in 1783, and this title was held by 11 Prime Ministers over the following 70 years. The title Conservative was given to the Earl of Derby in 1858 when he became PM.

Thereafter the Conservatives won six times in the 19th century and 12 times in the 20th century, the last Conservative Prime Minister of the 20th  century was John Major from 1990 to 1997.

The longest in power was Margaret Thatcher, between 1979 and 1990.

The Labour Party was so called, from 1906, from the title Labour Representation Committee, which was formed in 1900 from groups such as the Independent Labour Party, the trade unions, and the Fabian Society.

The first Labour government was that of Ramsay McDonald, who became Prime Minister in 1924 and between 1929 and 1931. It was to be another 14 years before Labour gained another victory, when the Second World War ended in 1945, and Clement Attlee ruled the country for six years.

In 1964 Harold Wilson led the Labour Party into another six-year period, and again, for two years between 1974 and 1976.

James Callaghan took the lead for Labour in the years 1976 to 1979.

Then 18 years were to pass before the present Prime Minister, Tony Blair, arrived in 1997.

The Liberals were originally known as the Whigs from 1782, then by 1855 the party received their present name from its opponents – to imply a laxity of principles – and the title remained. The Liberal Party was in power for long periods during the second half of the 19th century and for several years in the early part of the 20th century. Of the various Prime Ministers there were names such as William Gladstone, and the Earl of Rosebury. The last Liberal Prime Minister was Henry Asquith from 1908 to 1915.

In March 1988 the Liberals and the Social Democratic Party merged under the title of the Social and Liberal Democrats. Then from October 1989 they became known as the Liberal Democrats.

The local scene in politics began in the late 13th century when it is recorded that “Basingstoke sent two members to Parliament” to represent the town.

No more mention is made of these and the next time the town was allowed to be represented in Parliament was in 1885. This came about by an Act of Parliament which allowed Hampshire to be split into five divisions for an increased representation in Parliament.

The Parliamentary Election in November 1885 saw two candidates apply – the Right Hon George Sclater-Booth, Conservative, and Mr Richard Eve, Liberal.

The Conservative member won, and the regular trend for that party to win every General Election in Basingstoke was only interrupted for one year when the Liberal, Reginald Fletcher, won in 1923.

Andrew Hunter was Basingstoke’s MP for 21 years, starting from 1983.

Current MP Maria Miller was first elected from Basingstoke in 2005.

If she wins again in the upcoming election and completes her term, she will become the longest serving MP in Basingstoke’s history.

Over the years the local headquarters of the three parties have moved due to various circumstances. The Conservatives set up their office in New Street in 1885, then in March 1909 they moved to 44 Church Street, where, two years later, they had some 620 members enjoying the many facilities there.

In 1961 about £5,000 was spent on alterations to the building, but within two years the club realised that this money had been wasted, for they received notice to move due to the Town Development Scheme.

‘The Mount’ residence in Bounty Road was acquired as a site for an alternative club and the home of the Twining family, of tea-making fame, was demolished and the present club was built. It was officially opened by Reginald Maudling, MP for Barnet, in January 1967.

The landslide victory by Attlee in 1945 brought about an increase in Labour members in the town, and the need for a headquarters led to the acquisition of some wooden huts at the rear of the Co-operative Store in Essex Road.

It was often hired out for wedding receptions and other functions, including rock and roll dancing by the local youngsters.

In September 1961 fire gutted the building and so the Labour Club members looked for a new site. St Peter’s Church Hall in Sandys Road was used for a time, then after the new church was built in Pinkerton Road in 1963 the site in Sandys Road was later made into a brick-built Labour Club. In July 2001 another fire damaged the Labour Club in Sandys Road, but this was repaired.

The Liberal and Radical Club, as it was known, was established at 27 Wote Street in 1906. It consisted of a few rooms above Mr Jeffreys shoe shop and Mr Squires’ gift shop, access being by a flight of steps.

There were regular whist drives and other functions, as well as a bar to obtain drinks. The club suffered the same fate as the Conservatives – having to move for the new shopping centre in September 1966.

A new Liberal Club, called the Wote Street Club, was built in the lower section of the Central Car Park and was opened in April 1967.

This is an updated version of a column written in May 2004.