Winchester by-election, 1997
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After an unclear (and extremely close) result in Winchester at the general election on 1 May 1997, a new election was allowed by the High Court.
At the general election on 1 May 1997, Mark Oaten was originally declared the winner, with a majority of two votes over Conservative Gerry Malone, after many recounts and haggling over spoilt ballots.
Oaten was unseated on an electoral petition on 6 October 1997. The High Court held that 54 votes declared void for want of the Official Mark would have changed the result if counted. The court could not be sure they were not the product of a mistake, therefore deemed that the result was uncertain. They allowed the petition and declared the election void. The writ for the new election was moved on 28 October 1997.
The by-election on 20 November resulted in a clear win by Oaten – his majority was 21,556 over second-placed Gerry Malone, the former Conservative MP who had lost his seat in the general election.
Campaigning had focused on Oaten's speaking record in the House of Commons after the general election, while the nature of the controversial 1 May election result was also an issue for some Liberal Democrat voters. The Independent wrote, "Although careful not to articulate it themselves, their unofficial campaign slogan is: 'When the umpire gives you out, you should walk'", alluding to the unseated Malone.
The Labour Party obtained their worst ever results in a parliamentary election, in part because they hardly campaigned at all and instead focused their priorities on the by-election in Beckenham held on the same day.
Both the original and rerun election involved an incidence of a candidate using an attempted confusing description. Richard Huggett described himself in the general election as Liberal Democrat Top Choice For Parliament (leading to Oaten, the official Lib Dem candidate, to use the ballot paper description Liberal Democrat Leader Paddy Ashdown) and in the by-election as Literal Democrat Mark Here to Win. The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 put an end to this practice.
|By-election 1997: Winchester|
|Liberal Democrat||Mark Oaten||37,006||68.0||+26.0|
|Monster Raving Loony||Lord David Sutch||316||0.6||+0.1|
|"Literal Democrat Mark Here to Win"||Richard Huggett||59||0.1||−0.9|
|Natural Law||Rosemary Barry||48||0.1|
|Independent Conservative||Roger Everest||40||0.1|
|Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative||Swing||19.8|
General election result
At the general election (held five months before the by-election), the top two candidates' votes were very close.
|General Election 1997: Winchester|
|Liberal Democrat||Mark Oaten||26,100||42.1|
|Referendum Party||Peter Strand||1,598||2.6|
|"Liberal Democrat Top Choice for Parliament"||Richard Huggett||640||1.0|
|Monster Raving Loony||Peter Stockton||307||0.5|
|Void election result||Swing|
- "Winchester set for bitter election re-run", The Independent, 7 Oct 1997
- "Major boosts Malone's circus act", The Independent, 19 Nov 1997
- "Tories in turmoil as 'No Home Malone' fails", The Independent, 22 Nov 1997