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A 50th anniversary for Churchillian-led student representation case

11th July 2019 in Alumni, Archives Centre, News and Events, People

At a recent Churchill event, alumnus Ian Benson (U67) bumped into Hugh Ricketts (U68) a friend from his undergraduate days he had not seen for half a century. The chance meeting reminded Ian (who then contacted College) that it is the 50th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1969, in which the two alumni played a key part.

This Act not only extended the voting age to include those aged 18–20, it also allowed students to register to vote in their university, rather then home, town. This latter part was due to success in a test case brought by Hugh on behalf of the Churchill JCR, which led the NUS in taking the Cambridge Town Clerk to the High Court to overturn a 19th-century precedent that denied students the right to vote in their university towns. Following Royal Assent, these new laws came into effect in 1970.

As JCR President from 1969 to 1970, Ian was instrumental in starting this debate in College, and compiled a scrapbook of cuttings, letters, Council papers, newsletters, legal papers, etc, about the proceedings, which he donated to the Archives Centre in October 1996. The scrapbook is now item CCRF/120/5/7, and the Centre also holds item CCAR/212/14, which sits within the papers of the Domestic Bursar and is described as, 'Voting Register Papers relating to the inclusion of the names of students, fellows, etc. on the Electoral Register'.