Paisley by-election, 1920

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The Paisley by-election, 1920 was a parliamentary by-election held on 12 February 1920 for the British House of Commons constituency of Paisley in Scotland. It was caused by the death of the constituency's sitting Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Sir John Mills McCallum.

Electoral history[edit]

The result at the last General Election in 1918 was;

General Election 1918: Paisley[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal John Mills McCallum 7,542 34.0 -30.3
Co-operative Party John Biggar 7,436 33.5 N/A
C National Democratic John Taylor 7,201 32.5 N/A
Majority 106
Turnout
Liberal hold Swing
C indicates candidate endorsed by the coalition government.

Asquith’s return[edit]

The by-election provided an opportunity for the return to Parliament of H. H. Asquith, the former prime minister who had lost his seat at East Fife at the 1918 general election in the aftermath of the split in the Liberal Party between those who supported the coalition of David Lloyd George with the Conservatives and the supporters of Asquith’s independent Liberals, or ‘Wee Frees.’

Initially, it was widely expected that Biggar, who had nearly won the seat in 1918 and who was endorsed by nine former Liberal MPs, would win.[2]

Asquith had been an opponent of women’s suffrage (women over thirty were given the vote in 1918), and (30 January 1920) thought women voters “hopelessly ignorant, credulous to the last degree, and flickering with gusts of sentiment like a candle in the wind. Then there are some thousands of Irish, who have been ordered by their bosses to vote Labour – as if Labour had ever done or was ever likely to do anything for them”. Asquith directed most of his campaign not against Labour but against the Coalition candidate, whom he thought “a foul-mouthed Tory”. He called for moderation over German reparations, immediate Dominion Status for Ireland (where the Irish War of Independence was currently in progress) and warned of the danger of tariffs being erected, especially by the newly-independent small states of central Europe. Sir John Simon and Lord Buckmaster spoke in his support, as did his daughter Violet who had become an excellent speaker. The “foul-mouthed Tory” lost his deposit, to Asquith’s delight.[3]

The by-election seemed to be a triumph for the Independent Liberals with a majority of 2,834 votes over Labour and a blow for the government.

Result[edit]

Paisley by-election, 1920[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal H. H. Asquith 14,736 48.4 +14.4
Labour Co-op John McLaren Biggar 11,902 39.1 +5.6
C Unionist James Anderson Dunlop MacKean 3,795 12.5 N/A
Majority 2,834
Turnout
Liberal hold Swing
C indicates candidate endorsed by the coalition government.

Aftermath[edit]

The result at the following General Election in 1922 was;

General Election 1922: Paisley [5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal H. H. Asquith 15,005 50.5 +2.1
Labour Co-op John McLaren Biggar 14,689 49.5 +10.4
Majority 316
Turnout
Liberal hold Swing

References[edit]

  1. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  2. ^ Koss 1985, p246-7
  3. ^ Jenkins 1964, p486-7
  4. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  5. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig

Further reading[edit]