Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

‘Liverpool’s first Labour MP’: The Untold Story of the Edge Hill By-election of March 1923

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2021), 170, (1), 153–172.

Abstract

A by-election of notable significance took place in Liverpool’s Edge Hill Division in March 1923. The election is of historical importance because it marked the moment when the Labour Party won its first parliamentary seat in Liverpool. It is surprising therefore that the event has not received more assessment, especially as Liverpool now is considered to be a Labour stronghold. The by-election came about in peculiar circumstances, with the sitting Conservative MP being effectively retired by the Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law. Subsequently, a candidate, who had no links to Liverpool, was foisted on a reluctant divisional party. By comparison, the Labour Party was more organised, but they were certainly not confident about winning the seat, especially as the Conservatives had a majority of over four-thousand. Although the Labour Party was still relatively weak in the city, the Conservative Party was not the well-oiled election winning machine of yesteryear. The by-election was therefore by no means a forgone conclusion. The by-election campaign, which was fought over a fortnight, was therefore an intense affair. With the Government’s proposed abolition of rent controls, housing was the principal issue, which allowed the Labour Party to capitalise on the fears of the Edge Hill residents. This article is the first an extensive analysis of this historical by-election. It examines the selection of the candidates, and both their qualities and inadequacies. It also analyses the campaign and the aftermath, whilst placing the result in the wider context of both local and national politics.

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Author details

Nuttall, Paul A.