Liverpool Walton by-election, 1991

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The Liverpool Walton by-election was held on 4 July 1991, following the death of the Labour Party Member of Parliament Eric Heffer for Liverpool Walton, on 27 May.

The constituency had become a safe Labour seat under Heffer, who was known as being on the left of the party and a member of the Campaign Group. During the 1980s, the Trotskyist Militant tendency, operating within the Labour Party, had gained control of Liverpool City Council, and the city had become a significant base for the group.

When Heffer announced his retirement, Lesley Mahmood, a "Broad Left" councillor and a member of Militant, stood for the Labour nomination. Peter Kilfoyle, who had been the Labour Party organiser in the city since 1985, gained the nomination by a narrow margin; he had been involved in removing Militant influence from the Liverpool Labour Party.[1] Mahmood stood as a "Walton Real Labour" candidate.

Several other candidates stood. The Liberal Democrats stood Paul Clark, a local councillor and the Liberal Party candidate in the previous general election. The Conservatives, who had little support in the constituency, despite having held it until 1964, stood Berkeley Greenwood. Screaming Lord Sutch stood for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, and George Lee-Delisle stood on a platform advocating proportional representation.

Kilfoyle was able to win the election, taking a majority of the votes cast (53.1%), although 11.3% down on Heffer's result in the 1987 election. The Liberal Democrats gained from the division in the Labour Party and increased their vote to come second. Mahmood was only able to take a distant third place with 6.5% of the vote. The Conservatives were beaten into fourth, for the first time in Britain since the Bermondsey by-election, 1983, and lost their deposit. They did not place fourth in an English by-election again until the Hartlepool by-election, 2004.

Kilfoyle held the seat at the 1992 general election and at each subsequent election, eventually standing down at the 2010 general election..

Some of Militant's leaders, Ted Grant and Rob Sewell, had remained convinced of the merits of entrism and argued privately against Mahmood standing.[2] The candidacy was part of the process in their rejection of Entryism, or as they saw it, their open turn, and the expulsion of Grant.

Liverpool Walton by-election, 1991
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Peter Kilfoyle 21,317 53.1 −11.3
Liberal Democrat Paul Clark 14,457 36.0 +14.8
Walton Real Labour Lesley Mahmood 2,613 6.5 N/A
Conservative Berkeley Greenwood 1,155 2.9 −11.5
Monster Raving Loony Screaming Lord Sutch 546 1.4 N/A
Independent George Lee-Delisle 63 0.1 N/A
Majority 6,860 17.1 −26.1
Labour hold Swing
General Election 1987: Liverpool Walton
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Eric Heffer 34,661 64.4
Liberal Paul Clark 11,408 21.2
Conservative I. Mays 7,738 14.4
Majority 23,253 43.2
Turnout 73.6
Labour hold Swing


  1. ^ Andy McSmith Faces of Labour: The Inside Story, London: Verso, 1996, p.115
  2. ^ Taaffe, P. (1995) The Rise of Militant Militant Publications: London p.437