Pat Arrowsmith: Heckling James Callaghan from The Anti-Nuclear Fringe in 1979

Pat Arrowsmith – Peace Museum


None of the Above: Floating Voter considers famous fringe candidates from elections past

No 4: Pat Arrowsmith

Arrowsmith’s political consciousness was roused while still at her boarding school. Her parents took in Jewish refugees, and she and her friends in the dorm spent their nights discussing how to stop another war. She was eventually expelled for a variety of offences including absconding, and was sent to Cheltenham Ladies College, where she was once more no stranger to trouble.

At Cambridge, she joined the Crusade for World Government, and was later sacked from her work at a psychiatric hospital for petitioning (about nuclear tests) in the workplace. She then went on to co-founding the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In 1977 she became the first person to declare her homosexuality in Who’s Who, by putting Gateways (a lesbian haunt) in the ‘clubs’ section. She married, to meet an inheritance condition stipulated in her father’s will, then annulled the marriage the same day and donated the money to political campaigns.

Her run-ins with authority led to 11 jail terms, starting the late 1950s. Questions were asked in parliament when she was force-fed while on hunger strike in 1961, and questions were doubtless asked in the prison service when she succeeded in escaping in 1976.

She has the unusual distinction of having worked for Amnesty International and also of having twice been adopted as a Prisoner of Conscience by the organisation.

Her most famous election intervention came in 1979, when she stood in the constituency of James Callaghan, the outgoing Prime Minister. After a long series of heckles during the election night speeches, Callaghan eventually invited her to make a speech, whereupon he and everyone else left the building…


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