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
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