1982 Beaconsfield by-election

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The Beaconsfield by-election, 1982 was a parliamentary by-election held on 27 May 1982 for the British House of Commons constituency of Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. It is notable for being the only election Tony Blair lost in his 25-year political career. He was elected to parliament for Sedgefield, County Durham in the following year's general election, became party leader in 1994 and went on to become prime minister with three consecutive general election wins.

Previous MP[edit]

The seat had become vacant on 27 February 1982, when the constituency's Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), Sir Ronald Bell, died at the age of 67. He had been Beaconsfield's MP since the constituency was created for the February 1974 general election, having previously been MP for South Buckinghamshire since 1950. Bell had first entered Parliament at the Newport by-election in 1945, but lost that seat two months later at the 1945 general election.


The Conservative candidate was Tim Smith, aged 34, who had been the surprise winner of the 1977 Ashfield by-election, where he overturned a Labour Party majority of nearly 23,000 votes. However, he lost the Ashfield seat at the 1979 general election, and was seeking to return to Parliament.

The SDP-Liberal Alliance chose 40-year-old Paul Tyler, who had been Liberal Party MP for Bodmin from February 1974 to October 1974.

The Labour Party selected as its candidate an unknown and untested 29-year-old barrister called Tony Blair, an aspiring politician who had been advised by Labour MP Tom Pendry to seek the party's nomination to gain political experience.

Three other candidates stood, including Tom Keen, from the Campaign for a More Prosperous Britain, who held the record for the most candidacies in a single general election, and 78-year-old by-election veteran Bill Boaks, an eccentric campaigner for road safety, who usually described himself as "Air, Road, Public Safety, White Resident" or "Democratic Monarchist, Public Safety, White Resident". On this occasion, he chose the latter label.


Beaconsfield has always been one of the safest seats held by the Conservative Party, and a Conservative victory was expected. The real fight was for second place; the Liberal candidate had finished a close third in 1979, and the Alliance was seeking to establish itself as the main challenger to the Conservatives, while Labour fought to defend its position as the main opposition party.

On a slightly reduced turnout, the result was a win for Tim Smith, with a fractional increase in the Conservative share of the vote. Tyler increased the Alliance's share from 17.1% to 26.8%, a significant gain, but still a disappointment when compared with the breakthroughs seen in previous by-elections.

Labour's vote was nearly halved from 20.2% in 1979, down to 10.4%, and Blair lost his deposit as his vote was below the 12.5% threshold.

The relatively good Conservative showing may be partly attributed to the surge in support for the government due to the ongoing Falklands War.


Smith held the seat until the 1997 general election, when in March 1997 he was forced to stand down at the last minute over the cash-for-questions affair. He was replaced by Dominic Grieve, who still holds the seat to this day.

Tyler was a senior campaign organiser for the Alliance at further elections in the 1980s, and returned to Parliament at the 1992 general election, as MP for North Cornwall. He stood down in 2005, and was made a life peer.

Despite the party's poor showing Blair was regarded as having fought a good campaign, and he was selected as Labour candidate for the newly created safe seat of Sedgefield in County Durham. He won Sedgefield at the 1983 general election, and after a successful career in opposition he won the Labour Party leadership election in 1994. He led Labour to a landslide victory at the 1997 general election, and became Prime Minister on 2 May 1997, a position he held until 27 June 2007.


By-election 1982: Beaconsfield[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Tim Smith 23,049 61.8 +0.1
Liberal Paul Tyler 9,996 26.8 +8.7
Labour Tony Blair 3,886 10.4 -9.8
New Britain Michael Byrne 225 0.6 N/A
Democratic Monarchist, Public Safety, White Resident Bill Boaks 99 0.3 N/A
Benn in Ten Unless Proportional Representation Thomas Keen 51 0.1 N/A
Majority 13,053 35.0 -8.2
Turnout 37,306
Conservative hold Swing

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boothroyd, David. "Results of Byelections in the 1979-83 Parliament". United Kingdom Election Results. Retrieved 19 September 2015.