1933 Ashford by-election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Ashford by-election, 1933 was a parliamentary by-election for the British House of Commons constituency of Ashford on 17 March 1933.


The by-election was caused by the sitting Conservative MP, Michael Knatchbull's succession to the peerage on 15 February 1933. He had been MP here since gaining the seat in 1931.

Election History[edit]

Ashford had been gained by the Conservatives from the Liberals at the last election. The Liberals had gained the seat in 1929, the only occasion since the war that the Conservatives did not win. The result at the last General election was as follows;

General election 27 October 1931: Electorate 46,882
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Michael Knatchbull 20,891 58.7
Liberal National Roderick Kedward 14,681 41.3
Majority 6,210 17.5
Turnout 75.9


The local Conservatives selected 48-year-old Patrick Spens as candidate to defend the seat. He served in the First World War as an adjutant in the 5th battalion of the Queen's Royal Regiment. After the war Spens started practising as a lawyer and became a King's Counsel (KC) in 1925. He unsuccessfully contested St Pancras South West in the 1929 general election.

The Liberals selected 52-year-old Wesleyan minister and former MP for the seat, Rev. Roderick Kedward as candidate. During the First World War, Kedward served in Egypt and France.[1] He was invalided out of the army in October 1916 with 'trench fever' but served as president of ex-servicemen's associations after the war. He unsuccessfully contested the Kingston upon Hull Central constituency at the 1918 general election. He stood in Bermondsey West at the 1922 general election. At the next election in 1923, he was elected as the Bermondsey West Member of Parliament but was defeated at the 1924 general election. Transferring his political allegiance to his original home area, Kedward stood at the 1929 general election for Ashford in Kent. He won a remarkable victory with a swing of over 20% from the Tories to the Liberals. During this time, Kedward was strongly associated with the National Tithe-payers Association, a group which campaigned against the collection of tithes by the Church of England mainly for the upkeep of the clergy and which was unevenly levied across the country, hitting some areas harder than others. In 1931, having sided with the Simonite faction in the Liberal party, Kedward fought Ashford as a Liberal National but was defeated as the local Conservatives refused to endorse his candidacy, seeing him as too radical and disliking his overt non-conformism (anti-tithe stance).

The local Labour party selected W J Beck as candidate. Labour had not contested the seat in 1931 and in 1929 their candidate had finished a poor third.

Main Issues and Campaign[edit]

Polling Day was set for 17 March 1933.

At this point, the leading Liberal ministers had all resigned from government office, however, they remained supporters of the National Government and sat on the government benches. Many in the Liberal party outside parliament felt that the Liberals should now sit on the opposition benches. Only four Liberals, including David Lloyd George had been elected in 1931 and gone into opposition. In February 1932, a fifth Liberal MP, Harry Nathan had also moved into opposition. Roderic Kedward, the Liberal candidate, declared that he was contesting the election as a candidate opposed to the National government and would sit on the opposition Liberal benches if he were elected. This allowed Kedward the freedom to criticise the government on a wide range of issues during the campaign. However, his stance highlighted the awkward position of the Liberals in parliament.


Despite a small swing against the National Government, the Conservative managed to hold on to the seat because the Labour intervention split the anti-Tory vote.

Ashford by-election, 1933: Electorate 47,434
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Patrick Spens 16,051 47.7 -11.0
Liberal Roderick Kedward 11,423 33.9 -7.6
Labour W J Beck 6,178 18.4 +18.4
Majority 4,628 13.8 -3.7
Turnout 70.9 -5.0
Conservative hold Swing -1.7


The Liberal Party formally moved into opposition to the National government in November 1933. Spens was re-elected in 1935. In 1937 Kedward died from the sudden onset of a duodenal ulcer. The result at the following General election;

General election 14 November 1935: Ashford Electorate 48,914
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Patrick Spens 21,323 59.2
Liberal Richard Matthews 8,338 23.2
Labour W J Beck 6,333 17.6
Majority 12,985 36.1
Turnout 73.6
Conservative hold Swing


  • Who's Who: www.ukwhoswho.com
  1. ^ The Times, 7 December 1923

See also[edit]