1920 Argyll by-election

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The Argyllshire by-election, 1920 was a parliamentary by-election held for the British House of Commons constituency of Argyllshire on 10 March 1920.


The by-election was caused by the appointment of the sitting Coalition Liberal MP Sir William Sutherland as a Lord of the Treasury. This was an office of appointment under the Crown which enabled Sutherland to take up the post of Scottish Liberal whip but under the constitutional requirements of the day it meant he had to resign and fight a by-election.[1]


As the candidate of the Liberal-Conservative coalition government Sutherland had no Unionist opponent. Neither did he face opposition by the Independent Asquithian Liberals, who chose not to stand a candidate,[2] he was however opposed by the Reverend M MacCallum of Muckairn, Oban for Labour.[3]


Reverend MacCallum was reported as being not only the representative of the Labour Party but also of the Highland Land League.[4] Another candidate representing the Labour and the Highland Land League had been Sutherland’s only opponent in Argyllshire at the 1918 general election.[5] Sutherland was fighting on the record of the Coalition government. Given this was a straight fight between the Coalition and Labour it is little surprise that Sutherland sought to portray it as a struggle against socialism and nationalisation and that MacCallum played up the issue of community control against the vested interests ranged against the working class.[6]

The result[edit]

The press reported there was little excitement in the constituency on polling day.[7] Perhaps because the combined Liberal and Conservative votes were substantial there seemed little likelihood of an upset, because of the scattered geography of the constituency it took until 24 March to get all the ballots collected and counted and the result formally declared.[6] Sutherland held the seat with a reduced majority but Labour had nearly doubled its share of the vote.

The votes[edit]

William Sutherland
Argyll by-election, 1920[5] Electorate
Party Candidate Votes % ±
C Liberal William Sutherland 10,187 64.9
Labour Malcolm MacCallum 5,498 35.1
Majority 4,689 29.8
Liberal hold Swing
C indicates candidate endorsed by the coalition government.


  1. ^ The Times, 20 February 1920 p15
  2. ^ The Times, 17 February 1920, p18
  3. ^ The Times, 25 February 1920, p16
  4. ^ The Times, 1 March 1920, p15
  5. ^ a b F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow, 1949 p614
  6. ^ a b The Times, 24 March 1920, p17
  7. ^ The Times, 11 March 1920, p14

See also[edit]