New Zealand general election, 1938

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New Zealand general election, 1938
New Zealand
1935 ←
14 (Māori) & 15 October (general) 1938 → 1943

All 80 seats in the Parliament of New Zealand
41 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Michael Joseph Savage.jpg Adam Hamilton (1926).jpg
Leader Michael Joseph Savage Adam Hamilton
Party Labour National
Leader since 1933 1936
Leader's seat Auckland West Wallace
Last election 53 seats, 46.1%% 19 seats, 32.9% (as United/Reform Coalition)
Seats won 53 25
Seat change Steady 0 Increase 6
Popular vote 528,290 381,081
Percentage 55.8% 40.3%
Swing Increase 9.7% Increase 7.4%

Prime Minister before election

Michael Joseph Savage

Elected Prime Minister

Michael Joseph Savage

The 1938 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the Parliament of New Zealand's 26th term. It resulted in the governing Labour Party being re-elected, although the newly founded National Party gained a certain amount of ground.


The Labour Party had won a resounding victory in the 1935 elections, winning fifty-three seats. Shortly after the elections, the two Ratana-aligned MPs also merged into the Labour Party, giving Labour a total of fifty-five seats. The government, a coalition of the United Party and the Reform Party, had won only nineteen seats. Shortly after their defeat, United and Reform agreed to merge into the National Party, which positioned itself as the only alternative to the "socialist" Labour Party. However, Labour remained popular with the public, and the Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, was widely praised for his welfare reform. The leadership of the National Party, by contrast, was closely associated by the public with the Great Depression, and struggled to gain traction.

The election[edit]

The date for the main 1938 elections was 15 October, a Saturday. Elections to the four Maori electorates were held the day before. 995,173 people were registered to vote, and there was a turnout of 92.9%. This turnout was the highest ever recorded at that point, although it was later exceeded in the two elections after World War II and in the 1984 elections. The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902.[1]


The 1938 election saw a decisive win for the governing Labour Party, which won fifty-three seats. This was a drop of two from what it held prior to the election. The National Party won twenty-five seats, an increase of six from that the United/Reform coalition had previously won. Both Labour and National increased their share of the popular vote, with Labour winning 55.8% (up from 46.1%) and National winning 40.3% (up from 32.9%). This increase was at the expense of the Democrat Party and the Country Party, which saw their votes collapse completely — the Democrats again failed to win a place in Parliament. The Country Party lost the two seats it held as, unlike 1935, Labour stood (unsuccessful) candidates against the two Country Party members.

Independent candidates also lost ground, with only two being elected, Harry Atmore and Charles Wilkinson. As in 1935, the independents were tactically supported by one of the major parties who did not stand a candidate against them, and they generally voted with that party; Wilkinson and Wright had supported National while Atmore had supported Labour. But Robert Wright was defeated for the new electorate of Wellington West by Labour despite National not running a candidate against him.[2]

Party Leader Votes Percentage Seats won change
Labour Michael Joseph Savage 528,290 55.8% 53 -2*
National Adam Hamilton 381,081 40.3% 25 +9
(including Harry Atmore & Charles Wilkinson)
37,022 3.9% 2 -3
Labour re-elected 946,393 100% 80

The following table shows the detailed results: Key

 Labour    National    Country Party    Independent    Independent Liberal  

[v · t · e] Electorate results for the New Zealand general election, 1938[3][4]
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Auckland Central Bill Parry 6,181 Clifford Reid Dodd[5] (National)
Auckland East Frederick Schramm 2,626 Harry T Merritt[6] (National)
Auckland Suburbs Rex Mason 4,862 M S Walker (National)
Auckland West Michael Joseph Savage 8,007 John W Kealy[7] (National)
Avon Dan Sullivan 6,179 Hiram Hunter (National)
Awarua James Hargest 660 J A Beck (Labour)
Bay of Islands Harold Rushworth Charles Boswell 163 H F Guy (National)
Bay of Plenty Gordon Hultquist 169 Bill Sullivan (National)
Buller Paddy Webb 6,144 T O Maddison (National)
Central Otago William Bodkin 1,231 J M MacKay (Labour)
Christchurch East Tim Armstrong 7,179 K I Armour (National)
Christchurch North Sidney Holland 492 Robert Macfarlane (Labour)
Christchurch South Ted Howard 5,995 Gladstone Ward[8] (National)
Clutha James Roy 714 John Edie (Labour)
Dunedin Central Peter Neilson 3,814 W J Meade (National)
Dunedin North James Wright Munro 3,557 Alexander Smith Falconer[9] (National)
Dunedin South Fred Jones 4,314 Rev. Ernest Aderman (National)
Dunedin West Dr Gervan McMillan 2,639 Thomas Kay Stuart Sidey[10] (National)
Eden Bill Anderton 2,333 Donald Pool[11] (National)
Egmont Charles Wilkinson 1,402 T E Trask (Labour)
Franklin Arthur Sexton Jack Massey 2,057 E Piggott (Labour)
Gisborne David William Coleman 3,640 K F Jones (National)
Grey Lynn John A. Lee 8,607 J A Govan (National)
Hamilton Charles Barrell 1,860 Albert W Grant[12] (National)
Hauraki Charles Robert Petrie John Manchester Allen 1,188 Robert Coulter (Labour)
Hawkes Bay Edward Luttrell Cullen 2,658 George Maddison[13][14] (National)
Hurunui George Forbes 535 H E Denton (Labour)
Hutt Walter Nash 6,814 J W Andrews (National)
Invercargill William Denham 2,156 F G Hall-Jones[10] (National)
Kaiapoi Morgan Williams 1,535 G C Warren (National)
Kaipara Gordon Coates 1,689 P McGregor Stewart (Labour)
Lyttelton Terry McCombs 2,984 I J Wilson (National)
Manawatu Clifford Hunter John Cobbe 1,644 Clifford Hunter (Labour)
Marlborough (new electorate) Edwin Meachen 1,525 Edward Healy (National)
Marsden James Gillespie Barclay 557 Alfred Murdoch (National)
Masterton John Robertson 190 J H Irving (National)
Mataura David McDougall Tom Macdonald 1,515 David McDougall (Labour)
Mid-Canterbury Horace Herring Arthur Grigg 74 Horace Herring (Labour)
Motueka Keith Holyoake Clarence Skinner 870 Keith Holyoake (National)
Napier Bill Barnard 3,937 John Ormond[15] (National)
Nelson Harry Atmore 886 J R Kerr (National)
New Plymouth Sydney George Smith Frederick Frost 869 Sydney George Smith (National)
Oamaru Arnold Nordmeyer 758 Michael Francis Edward Cooney[16] (National)
Onehunga (new electorate) Arthur Osborne 4,314 John Park[17][18] (National)
Otahuhu (new electorate) Charles Robert Petrie 2,267 Kenneth Boor Tennent[19] (National)
Otaki Leonard Lowry 1,367 George Alexander Monk[20] (National)
Pahiatua Alfred Ransom 931 G A Hansen[21] (Labour)
Palmerston North Joe Hodgens 2,118 Jimmy Nash[22] (National)
Patea Harold Dickie 809 Charles Joseph Duggan[23][24] (Labour)
Raglan Lee Martin 604 Andrew Sutherland[25] (National)
Rangitikei Ormond Wilson Edward Gordon 311 Ormond Wilson (Labour)
Remuera (new electorate) Bill Endean 2,861 Mary Dreaver[26] (Labour)
Riccarton Herbert Kyle 87 Thomas Herbert Langford[27] (Labour)
Roskill Arthur Shapton Richards 2,141 A S Bailey (National)
Rotorua Alexander Moncur 1,648 H W Nixon[28] (National)
Stratford William Polson 1,101 J W McMillan (Labour)
Tauranga Charles Harris Burnett Frederick Doidge 1,138 Charles Harris Burnett (Labour)
Temuka Thomas David Burnett 1,249 J A Kearton (Labour)
Thames Jim Thorn 2,295 W A Clark (National)
Timaru Clyde Carr 2,196 W H Hall (National)
Waikato Robert Coulter William Goosman 2,928 J W Neate (Labour)
Waimarino Frank Langstone 2,940 C A Boles (National)
Waipawa Hubert Christie Albert Jull 446 Hubert Christie (Labour)
Wairarapa Benjamin Roberts 777 J F Thompson[29] (National)
Waitaki David Barnes David Campbell Kidd 14 David Barnes (Labour)
Waitemata Jack Lyon 2,261 J E Close (National)
Waitomo Walter Broadfoot 329 Jack Jones[30] (Labour)
Wallace Adam Hamilton 844 J J Lynch (Labour)
Wanganui Joseph Cotterill 3,920 Bill Veitch (National)
Wellington Central Peter Fraser 3,837 Will Appleton[31] (National)
Wellington East Bob Semple 4,736 W L Barker (National)
Wellington North Charles Henry Chapman 3,278 Elizabeth Gilmer[32] (Independent Liberal)
Wellington South Robert McKeen 6,415 David Howlett[33] (National)
Wellington Suburbs Robert Alexander Wright Harry Ernest Combs 3,163 Ossie Mazengarb (National)
Wellington West (new electorate) Catherine Stewart 956 Robert Alexander Wright (National)
Westland James O'Brien 3,729 Edward Bickmore Ellison Taylor (Independent)
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Apirana Ngata 1,064 Reweti Tuhorouta Kohere (Labour)
Northern Maori Taurekareka Henare Paraire Karaka Paikea 2,011 Taurekareka Henare (National)
Southern Maori Eruera Tirikatene 485 Thomas Kaiporohu Bragg (National)
Western Maori Toko Ratana 4,267 Pei Te Hurinui Jones (Independent)


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  7. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 370.
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  13. ^ Webb, Brendan (20 September 2010). "No Sign of Mayors". BayBuzz. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
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  17. ^ "The Onehunga Seat". Evening Post. CXXVI (59). 7 September 1938. p. 5. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Discover Onehunga’s Rich History". Onehunga Business Association. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "Parliamentary Elections". Auckland Star LXIX (233). 3 October 1938. p. 11. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Public Notices". Evening Post. CXXVI (82). 4 October 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "Labour Candidates". Evening Post CXXV (82). 7 April 1938. p. 17. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "J. A. Nash". Evening Post. CXXVI (89). 12 October 1938. p. 18. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "The Labour Party". Auckland Star LXIX (192). 16 August 1938. p. 5. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "Labour Candidates". Evening Post CX (61). 9 September 1925. p. 6. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 345.
  26. ^ Laracy, Hugh. "Dreaver, Mary Manson". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  27. ^ "Tammany Hall". Evening Post CXL (52). 30 August 1945. p. 9. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  28. ^ "General Election". Auckland Star LXIX (116). 19 May 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Wairarapa Electorate". Upper Hutt Weekly Review III (43). 14 October 1938. p. 3. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  30. ^ "Mrs. R. Bleasel". Auckland Star LXIX (277). 23 November 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  31. ^ Buchan, Allison. "Appleton, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  32. ^ Labrum, Bronwyn. "Gilmer, Elizabeth May". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved January 2013. 
  33. ^ "General Election". Evening Post. CXXVI (45). 22 August 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 


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  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.