The by-elections of 1939–45 were so unlike normal by-elections that at first it is hard to make sense of them. There were no contests between the three main parties. At the outbreak of the war, under the Chamberlain government, the Chief Whips of the Liberal, Labour and Conservative parties concluded an electoral truce whereby, when a seat fell vacant, the party which had held it previously would nominate a candidate, while the other two parties agreed not to do so. The agreement was to last for the duration of the war, or until one of the signatories withdrew. The purpose of the arrangement was to preserve a measure of national unity by confining party differences to the House of Commons. When all three parties joined the Churchill Coalition in May 1940, the truce acquired a deeper significance, as an essential precondition of unity within the government. Hence, although the rank and file of the Labour Party at times grew very restless with an arrangement which protected a Conservative majority of over 200, the truce was never seriously in question. Of the 141 seats which fell vacant during the war, 66 were filled unopposed, by the nominee of the incumbent party.
- Labour Party
- Incumbent Party
- Common Wealth Candidate
- Safe Seat
- Common Wealth
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G. L. Reakes, Man of the Mersey (1956) p. 78.
Hadley Cantril, Public Opinion, 1935–1946 (Princeton, 1951) p. 195.
A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (1972) pp. 404–6.
Ivor Davies, Trial by Ballot (1950) p. 155.
Donald Johnson, Bars and Barricades (1952) pp. 240–2.
Angus Calder, ‘The Common Wealth Party, 1942–1945’, Ph.D. thesis (Sussex, 1967) part 1, pp. 90–1.
For Driberg and Maldon, see Tom Driberg, The Best of Both Worlds (1953) pp. 181–5; Mass-Observation boxed material on Maldon; and Calder, op. cit., pp. 93–6.
Tom Harrisson, ‘Who’ll Win?’, Political Quarterly, xv (1944) 27.
Mass-Observation, ‘Social Security and Parliament’, Political Quarterly, XIV (1943) 246.
For an excellent survey of reactions to the Report, see Arthur Marwick, Britain in the Century of Total War (1968) pp. 300–14.
R. W. Mackay, Coupon or Free? (1943) p. 21.
Frank Bealey et al., Constituency Politics (1965) pp. 91–2;
A. H. Birch, Small- Town Politics (Oxford, 1959) p. 61.
See the account of the contest in Angus Calder, The People’s War (1969) pp. 552–4. See also Daily Mail, 8 Feb 1944.
Kay Allsop, in Common Wealth Review (Mar 1944) p. 9.
David Butler, ‘Trends in British By-Elections’, Journal of Politics, xi 2 (1949) 396–407.
Robert Rhodes James (ed.), Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (1967) p. 393.
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© 1973 Paul Addison
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Addison, P. (1973). By-Elections of the Second World War. In: Cook, C., Ramsden, J. (eds) By-Elections in British Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-01707-2_7
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
Print ISBN: 978-1-349-01709-6
Online ISBN: 978-1-349-01707-2