Hamilton South by-election, 1999

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On 4 August 1999 NATO announced that the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Hamilton South, in Scotland, the Rt. Hon. George Robertson, had been chosen as its new Secretary-General. This meant that Robertson was required to resign his seat which he had won as a Labour candidate in the 1997 general election. The seat had fallen vacant in a Parliamentary recess, and the law does not permit a byelection to be called during a recess if the sitting member resigns by taking the Chiltern Hundreds. The Labour Party did not wish to wait until the end of the recess to call the election as it would give opposition parties longer to campaign.

The problem was solved when Robertson was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Robertson of Port Ellen on 24 August 1999, instantly vacating his seat. The writ for the byelection was moved immediately. Labour selected Bill Tynan, a locally-based Trade Union official, to defend the seat. The Scottish National Party, which was likely to provide the main challenge, chose Annabelle Ewing. Despite not living locally this was a useful choice as Ewing was the daughter of Winnie Ewing who had defeated Labour to win the Hamilton byelection of 1967. The Scottish Socialist Party fought a strong campaign for the seat, and Stephen Mungall was nominated by a local group protesting against the ownership of the local football team Hamilton Academical F.C..

Twelve candidates stood, at the time the most in any Scottish by-election. Thirteen candidates stood at the 2009 by-election in Glasgow North East.

Polling day in the by-election was on 23 September. The Labour Party narrowly held on to the seat, after a recount; the Liberal Democrats polled embarrassingly poorly, which many interpreted as voter dissatisfaction with their decision to join the Labour Party in a coalition in the Scottish Executive. Their sixth place was the worst placing in a by-election by any major party since the Conservative candidate in the Upper Bann by-election, 1990 also came sixth; in by-elections in seats in Great Britain it was the lowest since the Liberal candidate in the Glasgow Camlachie by-election, 1948 also came sixth. The Scottish Socialist Party beat the Conservatives, and even Stephen Mungall saved his deposit.


Hamilton South by-election, 1999
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Bill Tynan 7,172 36.9 -28.7
SNP Annabelle Ewing 6,616 34.0 +16.4
Scottish Socialist Shareen Blackall 1,847 9.5 N/A
Conservative Charles Ferguson 1,406 7.2 -1.4
Independent Stephen Mungall 1,075 5.5 N/A
Liberal Democrat Marilyne MacLaren 634 3.3 -1.9
ProLife Alliance Monica Burns 257 1.3 -0.7
Socialist Labour Tom Dewar 238 1.2 N/A
Scottish Unionist Jim Reid 113 0.6 N/A
UKIP Alistair McConnachie 61 0.3 N/A
Natural Law George Stidolph 18 0.1 N/A
Independent John Drumond Moray 17 0.1 N/A
Majority 556
Turnout 41.3
Labour hold Swing -22.6

Mungall used the description "Hamilton Accies Home, Watson Away", referring to demands by some fans that Hamilton Academical should play their home matches locally and that Watson, a prominent shareholder, should go.

General Election 1997: Hamilton South
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour George Robertson 21,709 65.6 N/A
SNP Ian Black 5,831 17.6 N/A
Conservative Robert Dow Kilgour 2,858 8.6 N/A
Liberal Democrat Richard Pitts 1,693 5.1 N/A
ProLife Alliance Colin Gunn 684 2.1 N/A
Referendum Party Stuart Brown 316 1.0 N/A
Majority 15,878
Labour hold Swing

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