Florence Ruth Dalton (born Hamiliton Fox, 1890 – 15 March 1966), known as Ruth Dalton and later Lady Dalton, was a British Labour Party politician. A long serving member of the London County Council, she also holds the record for the shortest-serving female Member of Parliament (MP).
A graduate of the London School of Economics, she married in 1924 the Labour Party MP Hugh Dalton; they had one child, a daughter. The family lived at West Leaze, Aldbourne, Wiltshire and at Carlisle Mansions, Carlisle Place, London.
Her husband was MP for Peckham in South London, later a solidly Labour seat, but then highly marginal; his majority in 1924 was only 947 votes. He had been selected as Labour candidate for the safe seat of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, where the sitting MP Ben Spoor was retiring, but Spoor died shortly before Christmas 1928, necessitating a by-election. However, Hugh Dalton could not stand without resigning his Peckham seat, and the candidate selected to succeed him in Peckham was John Beckett, then MP for Gateshead, so Hugh Dalton could not stand without triggering another two by-elections.
The Bishop Auckland Constituency Labour Party therefore needed a candidate who would agree to stand down at the next general election. The seventy-strong general committee unanimously chose Ruth Dalton, because she could be relied on to resign in favour of her husband as soon as Parliament was dissolved; no other candidate was even considered.
Ruth won the by-election on 7 February with a large majority and 57% of the votes, and served until Parliament was dissolved on 10 May for the 1929 general election. She had been Member of Parliament (MP) for only 92 days, a record never beaten, but equalled 45 years later by Margo MacDonald, the Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Govan from 8 November 1973 to 8 February 1974.
Dalton did not enjoy the House of Commons, and did not stand for Parliament again. She felt that more work was accomplished on London County Council, where she held her seat until 1931, returning from 1935 to 1942 as an alderman, including a time as Chairman of the Parks Committee. She later served on the Board of Governors of the Royal Ballet and from 1957-62 on the Arts Council.
- Historical list of MPs: B (part 3) at Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages
- Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics: Records
- Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics: Women MPs Elected 1918-1929
- Craig, F. W. S. (1983) . British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 (3rd edition ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
- "Maiden speech of Helen Goodman MP". Hansard. 25 May 2005. pp. Column 781–782. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Ruth Dalton
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland
Feb. 1929–May 1929