‘Only the abysmal record of the football club can provoke heated speculation’

Jo and Rhys Williams competing in a nighttime navigational competition in East Hampshire

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On this day in 1959 a correspondent reported for The Times: ‘One can drive through miles of streets [in Portsmouth] without ever seeing a poster in a window or a sticker on a car.’

It was the eve of the general election and two years earlier Harold Macmillan had made his assertion that Britons’ ‘had never had it so good’, but few people seemed to share his belief, at least, not out loud.

The report continued: ‘Only the abysmal record of the football club can be relied on to provoke heated speculations, and any candidate who could promise a few more goals would be welcome indeed.

‘The undemonstrative campaign has been surprising considering that Portsmouth has a slightly higher percentage of unemployment than the national average, that wages in the town are low and that the prosperity of the Dockyard, which employs 23,000 people, is largely dependent on the future strength of the navy.’

The apathy, it was suggested, might be down to the fact that ‘Portsmouth is a rather insular community’, that ‘dockies are long accustomed to low pay’ and that ‘naval tradition tends to subdue electioneering’.

The next day, four Conservative MPs were elected in the four Portsmouth seats – John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.