1927 Leith by-election

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This was a parliamentary by-election for the British House of Commons constituency of Leith

Previous MP

When David Lloyd George replaced H. H. Asquith as Liberal Party Leader, the Liberal MP, William Wedgwood Benn decided to resign from the Liberal party and to join the Labour Party. Benn believed that his change of party allegiances warranted him resigning his seat and seeking re-election.

Previous result

General election, 29 October 1924 Electorate: 39,480
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal William Wedgwood Benn 16,569 59.6
Labour Robert Freeman Wilson 11,250 40.4
Majority 5,319
Turnout 70.5
Liberal hold Swing


Benn had been the Liberal MP for Leith since 1918 and was keen to stand for election as a Labour candidate. However, the Leith Labour Party did not want him as their candidate, so Benn did not contest the by-election.[1] The Leith Labour Party adopted R.F. Wilson as their candidate. He was a local left-wing Socialist who had stood against Benn in the previous two elections. The Conservatives, who had not contested the seat since 1918, put up a candidate in Allan Beaton. He was one of the Scottish conservatives most experienced candidates.[2] He had contested the safe Labour seat of Edinburgh Central at the last General Election. The Leith Liberal Association struggled to find a Liberal candidate prepared to defend a seat under such difficult circumstances. However, their seventh choice as candidate, Ernest Brown agreed to contest the seat.[3] Brown was an Englishman who was employed by party headquarters as a speaker. He had briefly been Liberal MP for Rugby from 1923-24 when he was defeated.


The Liberal campaign was reliant upon Brown's ability and enthusiasm as a speaker, backed by plentiful funds from Lloyd George's national organisation. However, his task was made difficult because the local Liberal organisation had been allowed to run down during Benn's tenure as MP.[4]


Right up to polling day, the newspapers were predicting either a Labour win or a Conservative win with much talk about the prospect of the Liberal losing his deposit.[5]

Leith by-election, 23 March 1927 Electorate:
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Alfred Ernest Brown 12,461 42.4 -17.2
Labour Robert Freeman Wilson 12,350 42.0 +1.6
Conservative Allan Beaton 4,607 15.7 n/a
Majority 111
Turnout 73.9 +3.4
Liberal hold Swing -9.4


Four days after this victory, the Liberals gained a seat from Labour at Southwark North. Benn did not have long to wait for a local Labour Party to adopt him as a candidate when a by-election vacancy came at Aberdeen North in 1928, where he was returned to parliament. At the 1929 general election Brown was re-elected here. Beaton contested Dunfermline Burghs without success and Wilson did not stand again.

General election, 30 May 1929 Electorate 50,801
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Alfred Ernest Brown 20,613
Labour Alan H Paton 15,715
Majority 4,898
Liberal hold Swing


  1. ^ Trial By Ballot by Ivor RM Davies (1950)
  2. ^ Trial By Ballot by Ivor RM Davies (1950)
  3. ^ Trial By Ballot by Ivor RM Davies (1950)
  4. ^ Trial by Ballot by Ivor RM Davies
  5. ^ Trial by Ballot by Ivor RM Davies
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1979)
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