1908 Ashburton by-election

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1908 Ashburton by-election

← 1906 17 January 1908 Jan. 1910 →
  Ernest Morrison-Bell.jpg Charles Roden Buxton crop.jpg
Candidate Bell Buxton
Party Liberal Unionist Liberal
Popular vote 5,191 4,632
Percentage 52.8 47.2

MP before election

Harry Trelawney Eve

Subsequent MP

Charles Buxton

The Ashburton by-election, 1908 was a by-election held in England on 17 January 1908 to elect a new Member of Parliament (MP) for the British House of Commons constituency of Ashburton in Devon.


The by-election was triggered by the appointment of the sitting Liberal MP Harry Trelawney Eve as a judge.


General election 1906: Ashburton[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Harry Eve 5,079 57.3 +2.6
Liberal Unionist Ernest Morrison-Bell 3,790 42.7 −2.6
Majority 1,289 14.6 +5.2
Turnout 8,869 85.0 +1.1
Registered electors 10,429
Liberal hold Swing +2.6


The Liberal Unionist candidate Ernest Morrison-Bell, had lost the constituency by 1,283 votes in the previous general election.


The Liberal government had introduced the Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1907 which sought to limit the degree to which fixtures and improvements remained the property of landlords, and to increase the number of small farmers. This new measure was expected to have a strong appeal to voters in rural constituencies like Ashburton.[2] [3]


The result was a victory for the Liberal Unionist candidate Ernest Morrison-Bell.

Ashburton by-election, 1908
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Unionist Ernest Morrison-Bell 5,191 52.8 +10.1
Liberal Charles Buxton 4,632 47.2 −10.1
Majority 559 5.7 20.2
Turnout 9,823 89.5 +4.5
Registered electors 10,976
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +10.1

The loss of the seat came as a surprise to the Liberals, who had expected to retain it. The unsuccessful Liberal Candidate, Charles Roden Buxton, complained that the Liberal government had wrongly been blamed for the increased price of food; Morrison-Bell assured his followers that it had been a great victory for the cause of tariff reform. A crowd of over 10,000 people gathered in the town centre to hear the result, and after it was announced, several fights broke out, with Liberal supporters accusing their opponents of having won through 'beer' and 'bribery'. Morrison-Bell had to be escorted to the Conservative Club by the police, and Emmeline Pankhurst and another supporter of the women's suffrage movement were knocked down and injured in a shop in which they had taken refuge. A crowd later invaded the Conservative Club, causing considerable damage, and the police had to charge with truncheons, leaving several people in need of medical treatment. A number of policemen were injured by stones and one was hospitalised.[4]


General election January 1910: Ashburton[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Charles Buxton 5,668 51.1 +3.9
Liberal Unionist Ernest Morrison-Bell 5,421 48.9 -3.9
Majority 247 2.2 7.8
Turnout 92.6 +3.1
Liberal hold Swing +3.9


  1. ^ Liberal Year Book, 1907
  2. ^ By-Elections in British Politics, 1832-1914
  3. ^ Craig, FWS, ed. (1974). British Parliamentary Election Results: 1885-1918. London: Macmillan Press. ISBN 9781349022984.
  4. ^ The Times, 20 January 1908
  5. ^ Debrett's House of Commons & Judicial Bench, 1916

See also[edit]