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1970 Bridgwater By-Election

In March 1970 a sleepy market town in Somerset came to the nation's attention. The sudden death of Bridgwater MP, Sir Gerald Willis meant a by-election would take place. The by-election was the first that allowed eighteen-year-olds the opportunity to vote after the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1969. The media spotlight fell on a local girl, Trudy Sellick, who turned eighteen on polling day. Her surreal voting experience saw her make the front-pages of the national newspapers and even be serenaded with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday' by a scrum of reporters. Tom King, a 36-year-old Conservative was the victorious candidate. Despite losing out somewhat on the exposure stakes to the teenage typist, the BBC reported that he was greeted by a 100-strong crowd on the town hall steps and then paraded down Bridgwater High-Street on the shoulders of three local farmers. His victory was a harbinger for the party's fortunes as they returned to power in the summer General Election.