Hamilton by-election, 1967

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hamilton by-election
Scotland
1966 ←
1967
→ 1970

 
Candidate Winnie Ewing Alexander Wilson Ian Dyer
Party SNP Labour Conservative
Popular vote 18,397 16,598 4,986
Percentage 46.0% 41.5% 7.3%

MP before election

Tom Fraser
Labour

Subsequent MP

Winnie Ewing
SNP

The Hamilton by-election, which took place in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, on 2 November 1967, was a "watershed" moment in Scottish political history.[1] The shock victory of the Scottish National Party's candidate Winnie Ewing over their fierce Labour rivals catapulted the young, charismatic lawyer, her party and the cause of Scottish independence to national prominence for the very first time.

Prior to 1967, the Hamilton parliamentary constituency was widely perceived to be an impregnable Labour party stronghold. As in many places in Labour's urban, working-class heartlands in the West of Scotland, it was said the Labour vote "is not counted here, it is weighed".[2] This made Ewing's victory - on an unprecedented and gargantuan near-38% swing from Labour - all the more remarkable.

Until 1967, the SNP had struggled to make any significant, successful waves in national politics, remaining a largely small, fringe party. Although Robert McIntyre had become the SNP's first-ever MP after winning the nearby Motherwell constituency in a by-election in 1945, Ewing was not expected to win in Hamilton in 1967. In the 1966 UK General Election, the SNP had not even fielded a candidate in Hamilton. The SNP's leadership merely told Ewing to "try to come a good second in order to encourage the members".[3] "As ever," Ewing later wrote, "I overdid it, and as a result my life changed for ever."[4]

A by-election was called after the former Labour MP, Tom Fraser, resigned in order to take up a better-paid position as head of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.[5] As his successor, Ewing held the seat until the 1970 UK General Election.

Ewing's win followed other breakthrough successes for nationalist parties in Britain - including Gwynfor Evans' similarly groundbreaking victory for Plaid Cymru at the Carmarthen by-election, 1966, a big advance for the SNP at the Pollok by-election, and big SNP gains in local elections, including becoming the largest party in local government in Stirling.[6]

Today, Ewing's victory is recognised as both historic and iconic. It is seen as heralding the start of a new era in Scottish politics in which Scottish nationalism was now truly a force to be reckoned with and as the catalyst for the rise of the SNP from a minor party of protest to a mainstream party of government.[7]

Ewing's first words to the crowd outside the count after her victory was declared - "Stop the World, Scotland wants to get on" - are among the most famous and most quoted ever to be uttered by a Scottish politician.[8]

Hamilton by-election, 1967
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
SNP Winifred Ewing 18,397 46.0 +46.0
Labour Alexander Wilson 16,598 41.5 -29.7
Conservative Ian Dyer 4,986 7.3 -4.6
Majority 1,779
Turnout 39,981
SNP gain from Labour Swing 37.9

References[edit]

  1. ^ Isobel Lindsay, "The SNP and Westminster", pp. 93 - 104, in The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, edited by Gerry Hassan, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, p. 94
  2. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/may/06/snp-scottish-election-scotland
  3. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 15
  4. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 15
  5. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 10
  6. ^ Christopher Harvie and Peter Jones, The road to home rule: images of Scotland's cause, p.84
  7. ^ Gerry Hassan, "The Making of the Modern SNP: From Protest to Power", pp. 1 - 18, in The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, edited by Gerry Hassan, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, p. 1
  8. ^ Winnie Ewing, Stop the World, edited by Michael Russell, Birlinn: Edinburgh, 2004, p. 11

See also[edit]