1912 North West Norfolk by-election

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The North West Norfolk by-election was a Parliamentary by-election. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post voting system.


The vacancy was caused by the death of the sitting member, Sir George White, on 11 May 1912 at the age of 72. He had been the MP there since 1900.

Electoral history[edit]

The constituency was a safe Liberal seat, which they had won at every election since its creation in 1885. The result at the last general election was clear cut;

George White
General Election December 1910: North West Norfolk
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal George White 5,407 55.9 -0.1
Conservative Neville Jodrell 4,264 44.1 +0.1
Majority 1,143 11.8 -0.2
Turnout 83.3 -2.7
Liberal hold Swing -0.1


  • The Liberal Party selected 41-year-old Edward Hemmerde to defend the seat. He was a barrister who had been appointed Recorder of Liverpool in 1909. He had sat as Liberal MP for East Denbighshire from 1906 to December 1910, when he left to contest the Conservative seat of Portsmouth but was defeated.
  • The Conservatives re-selected 54-year-old Neville Jodrell, who had been their candidate in both 1910 general elections.


Hemmerde was a fanatical advocate of a Single tax system, based on a Land Value tax, and he made this issue the centre of his campaign. He argued that a Land Value tax meant "raising wages and solving the rural housing problem". He endorsed the programme of the National Agricultural Labourers and Rural Workers Union, which called for Trade Boards to set agricultural wages. A Land Value tax was not Liberal Party policy, but Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George, sent Hemmerde a message of support in which he agreed to "a thorough reorganization of the land system".[1]


The Liberals held the seat, with only a small swing away from them:

Edward Hemmerde
By-Election 31 May 1912: North West Norfolk
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Edward Hemmerde 5,613 53.1 -2.8
Conservative Neville Jodrell 4,965 46.9 +2.8
Majority 648 5.6
Turnout 87.7 +4.4
Liberal hold Swing -2.8


The result brought the issue of Land Value taxation to the fore of Liberal government thinking. Lloyd George sat down with Hemmerde and the Single Taxers to devise new land policies to present to the electors at the next general election.

A general election was due to take place by the end of 1915. By the autumn of 1914, the following candidates had been adopted to contest that election. However, due to the outbreak of World War I, the election did not take place.

General Election 1914/15: North West Norfolk
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Edward Hemmerde
Unionist Neville Jodrell

Boundary changes resulted in the constituency being abolished and merged into King's Lynn. Hemmerde was promised government endorsement, but was denied the coalition coupon and decided not to contest the 1918 general election. This meant that the Liberal Party lost the seat by close of nominations.

United Kingdom general election, 1918: King's Lynn
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist 10,146
Labour Robert Barrie Walker 9,780
Unionist gain from Liberal Swing
  • endorsed candidate of the Coalition Government.


  1. ^ By-Elections in British Politics, 1832-1914

Further reading[edit]

  • Craig, F.W.S. (1974). British parliamentary election results 1885-1918 (1 ed.). London: Macmillan.