Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Vote, Vote, Vote, for Nigel Barton (1965)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Vote, Vote, Vote, for Nigel Barton (1965)
for The Wednesday Play, BBC, tx. 15/12/1965
75 minutes, black & white
DirectorGareth Davies
ProducerJames MacTaggart
ScriptDennis Potter
Story EditorsRoger Smith
 Tony Garnett

Cast: Keith Barron (Nigel Barton); Valerie Gearon (Ann Barton); John Bailey (Jack Hay); Cyril Luckham (Archibald-Lake)

Show full cast and credits

A young man from a working-class background questions his idealism when he stands as the Labour candidate in a by-election in a strong Tory district.

Show full synopsis

Dennis Potter made his debut as a television playwright in 1965 with the screening of four works in the Wednesday Play (BBC, 1964-70) strand. 'Vote, Vote, Vote, for Nigel Barton' (BBC, tx. 15/12/1965) should have been the second of these, but it was pulled from the schedules and shown last instead. Due to a technical fault parts of it had to be re-recorded, at which point some objections were raised by the BBC over its content, leading to a number of changes. Chief among these was the decision to preface the screening with a 'prequel' play, 'Stand Up, Nigel Barton' (BBC, tx. 8/12/1965), to give its barbed political commentary and satire a more specific basis in Barton's (Keith Barron) own background.

The play begins blackly when a Tory MP falls from his horse during a foxhunt. His companions are seemingly unconcerned about his fatal injuries, being much more worried about the fate of the horse. Their cruel comments are amusingly matched with an out of focus point-of-view shot, which might represent either rider or horse. Stylistically less adventurous than 'Stand Up, Nigel Barton' (although it retains the asides to the audience), by using footage of speeches by Nye Bevan and Oswald Mosley it creatively comments, positively and negatively, on idealism, its relationship to party politics and how professional politicians must function within it.

'Vote, Vote, Vote' concludes with Barton's vitriolic attack on the reactionary rhetoric of the Tories and the British political establishment in general, climaxing with his celebrated two-fingered salute to his political opponent. Barton's fictional electoral defeat mirrors Potter's own when he ran for the Hertfordshire East seat in 1964 (he grew so disenchanted with the process that he didn't even vote for himself).

The play's relevance remains undimmed, its references to Britain's botched invasion of Suez and to Oswald Moseley finding contemporary echoes in the controversies over the Iraq conflict and the rise of the BNP, while blood sports remain as topical an issue as ever. Although the character was softened considerably in the re-shoots, John Bailey's cynical political agent is instantly recognisable in the modern age of spin doctors, while the hilarious scene in which Nigel tries to bluff his way through a chorus of 'The Red Flag' inevitably recalls John Redwood's humiliation when, as Welsh Secretary, he was caught on camera not knowing the words to the Welsh national anthem.

Sergio Angelini

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Trouble at home (2:44)
2. Meeting the people (2:29)
3. The Red Flag (2:59)
4. Looking backward (3:14)
Stand Up, Nigel Barton (1965)
Garnett, Tony (1936-)
Potter, Dennis (1935-1994)
The Television Play
Wednesday Play, The (1964-70)