1918 Wellington Central by-election

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1918 Wellington Central by-election

← 1914 general 3 October 1918 (1918-10-03) 1919 general →
Turnout 4,719 (51.43%)
  Peter Fraser, 1918.jpg Joe Mack.tif
Candidate Peter Fraser Joe Mack
Party Labour Independent Labour
Popular vote 2,668 1,044
Percentage 56.54% 22.12%

  William Hildreth.jpg Harry Atmore, 1911.jpg
Candidate William Hildreth Harry Atmore
Party Liberal Independent
Popular vote 784 185
Percentage 16.61% 3.92%

Member before election

Robert Fletcher

Elected Member

Peter Fraser

The Wellington Central by-election of 1918 was a by-election held in the Wellington Central electorate during the 19th New Zealand Parliament, on 3 October 1918. It was caused by the death of incumbent MP Robert Fletcher of the Liberal Party and was won by Peter Fraser with a majority of 1,624.


Coalition government

The Wartime Coalition government between the Reform Party and Liberal Party sought to retain the seat, though were anxious of their chances of retaining an urban electorate following their narrow win in the Wellington North by-election several months earlier. Under the terms of the coalition agreement between Reform and the Liberal's a condition was made not to oppose each other in by-elections for deceased or retiring MP's from their own parties. Several candidates were approached for the Liberal nomination and eventually William Hildreth, a Wellington City Councillor was selected and endorsed by acting-Prime Minister James Allen.[1]

Labour Party

The Labour Party had supported Robert Fletcher (a left winger amongst the Liberals) in the 1911 and 1914 elections, but decided to contest the election for his vacated seat themselves. Labour were confident following a near victory in the Wellington North by-election earlier in the year. There were three contestants for the Labour Party nomination Peter Fraser, John Read and Michael Reardon.[2] Fraser was selected as the official Labour candidate and had a large local following. Fraser had gained much notability after spending one year in jail for sedition after speaking out against the war and conscription. Even on his release he was still a prominent critic of the government.[3]


Joe Mack stood as an independent Labour candidate. He was a moderate amongst the union movement and unlike most others he supported both the war effort and conscription. To many observers, Mack represented "sane Labour" due to his distance from the radical views held by many socialists at the time. His candidature was put forward by the Protestant Political Association of New Zealand claiming him to be a patriotic individual and not a "Bolshevik" like many of his union colleagues.[4]

Previous election

1914 general election: Wellington Central[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Robert Fletcher 5,208 64.40
Reform Francis Fisher 2,879 35.60
Majority 2,329 28.80
Informal votes 84 1.03
Turnout 8,171 84.47
Registered electors 9,673
Liberal gain from Reform Swing


The following table gives the election results:

1918 Wellington Central by-election[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Peter Fraser 2,668 56.54
Independent Labour Joe Mack 1,044 22.12
Liberal William Hildreth 784 16.61
Independent Harry Atmore 185 3.92
Independent Lindsay John Frederick Garmston 29 0.61
Independent William Cyril Tanner 9 0.19
Majority 1,624 34.41
Turnout 4,719 51.43 -33.04
Registered electors 9,176
Labour gain from Liberal Swing


  1. ^ Gustafson 1980.
  2. ^ "Wellington Central by-election". The Press. LIV (16317). 14 September 1918. p. 9. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  3. ^ Beaglehole, Tim. "Fraser, Peter". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  4. ^ Atkinson, Neill. "Matthew Joseph Mack". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  5. ^ The General Election, 1914. Government Printer. 1915. p. 3. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  6. ^ "A victory for Labour". The Evening Post. XCVI (83). 4 October 1918. p. 3. Retrieved 15 March 2014.


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