2008 Crewe and Nantwich by-election

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Crewe and Nantwich by-election

← 2005 22 May 2008 2010 →

Crewe and Nantwich parliamentary seat
  First party Second party Third party
  Edward Timpson Minister.jpg Tamsin Dunwoody (cropped).JPG Blank
Candidate Edward Timpson Tamsin Dunwoody Elizabeth Shenton
Party Conservative Labour Liberal Democrats
Popular vote 20,539 12,679 6,040
Percentage 49.5% 30.6% 14.6%
Swing Increase16.9% Decrease18.2% Decrease4.0%

Location of Crewe and Nantwich within Cheshire

MP before election

Gwyneth Dunwoody

Subsequent MP

Edward Timpson

The 2008 Crewe and Nantwich by-election was a parliamentary by-election held on 22 May 2008, for the House of Commons constituency of Crewe and Nantwich, in Cheshire, England. The election was won by the Conservative party candidate Edward Timpson, who defeated the Labour party candidate Tamsin Dunwoody, on a swing from Labour to Conservative of 17.6%, a swing that in a general election would have seen nine Labour cabinet ministers lose their seats.[citation needed]

At the time of the by-election, a swing of 7% in a general election would have seen the Conservatives gain an overall majority over Labour.[1] This was the first seat gained by the Conservatives in a by-election since the 1982 Mitcham and Morden by-election and the first seat they had taken from Labour in a by-election since the 1978 Ilford North by-election thirty years earlier.


The by-election was called following the death on 17 April 2008 of the sitting MP Gwyneth Dunwoody.[2] The timing of the election caused controversy as, by convention, by-elections are not moved until after the funeral of the deceased Member of Parliament, which drew protests from Conservative and Liberal Democrat members in the House of Commons. However the writ was moved with the approval of the Dunwoody family.[3]

The election had attracted high media and public interest following heavy defeats for the incumbent Labour party in the local elections held earlier that same month, and the fact it followed the controversial removal by the Labour government of the 10 pence national income tax band, which had seen a backbench rebellion against Prime Minister Gordon Brown, causing an announcement in the same month of a recovery package to help the people left worse off by the move.

Immediately following the announcement of the result following the speeches, the defeated Tamsin Dunwoody speaking live to the BBC blamed the swing on a higher turn-out than usual due to the high interest in the election, despite both the turnout and winning vote being lower than the 2005 general election result for this seat. Telling the BBC the Labour vote "held up" in a "democratic decision", defeated Labour candidate Tamsin Dunwoody called herself a "fighter". New MP Edward Timpson said in his victory speech that he would "not let you down",[4] whilst Brown attributed the defeat to rising petrol prices, and the recent increases in the cost of living.[5]


2008 Crewe and Nantwich by-election[6][7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward Timpson 20,539 49.5 Increase 16.9
Labour Tamsin Dunwoody 12,679 30.6 Decrease 18.2
Liberal Democrats Elizabeth Shenton 6,040 14.6 Decrease 4.0
UKIP Mike Nattrass 922 2.2 New
Green Robert Smith 359 0.9 New
English Democrat David Roberts 275 0.7 New
Monster Raving Loony The Flying Brick 236 0.6 New
No label Mark Walklate 217 0.5 New
Cut Tax on Diesel and Petrol Paul Thorogood 118 0.3 New
No label Gemma Garrett 113 0.3 New
Majority 7,860 18.9 N/A
Turnout 41,856 58.2 Decrease 1.8
Rejected ballots 67 0.2
Conservative gain from Labour Swing Increase 17.6

Opinion polling[edit]

An ICM poll from mid-May gave the Conservative candidate 43% to Labour's 39% and the Lib Dems' 16%;[8] a second ICM poll from a week after gave the Conservatives 45% to Labour's 37%.[9]


On 3 May 2008, incumbent Gwyneth Dunwoody's daughter Tamsin, a former member of the National Assembly for Wales, was selected as the Labour candidate.[10] Prior to Dunwoody's death, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had already selected candidates to contest the seat at the general election.[11] The Conservative Party candidate Edward Timpson was a barrister practising in Chester. Since 2006, he had been the Conservative Party's campaigns co-ordinator for the Eddisbury constituency.[12] The Liberal Democrat candidate Elizabeth Shenton had worked as a senior manager for the RBS and NatWest, where she was an active member of the trade union. At the time of the election she was also a councillor in Newcastle-under-Lyme.[13]

The UK Independence Party candidate was Mike Nattrass, MEP for the nearby West Midlands and a former deputy party leader.[14] Robert Smith, a 23-year-old town planner (and transport planning specialist)[15] educated at the University of Liverpool[11] stood for the Green Party of England and Wales and particularly campaigned to reverse the privatisation of British Rail (and associated fare increases).[16][17]

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party stood "The Flying Brick" (his legal name, although he was formerly known as Nick Delves), the party's treasurer and Shadow Minister for the Abolition of Gravity (see Official Monster Raving Loony Party#Crewe and Nantwich By-Election).[11] Independent candidate Mark Walklate is a locally educated salesperson (with a business degree) who stood for the Conservatives in the 2006 and 2007 council elections.[18] Paul Thorogood's party, Cut Tax on Petrol and Diesel, was registered with the Electoral Commission on 23 March 2008, with Thorogood as its Leader, Nominating Officer and Treasurer,[19] although his party is listed on the nomination paper as "Cut Tax on Diesel and Petrol" (the fourth and sixth words reversed).[6] The newly formed Beauties for Britain Party fielded Gemma Garrett, the then-Miss Great Britain, as a candidate in what was their first election campaign, announcing that they wanted to "help make Westminster as glamorous a place as its fellow European legislatures, where beautiful women abound in the higher echelons of government".[20] The party was not, however, registered with the Electoral Commission, so she had to stand as an independent. Garrett and fellow independent Mark Walklate are recorded as having no party name or description at all on the official record of candidates[6] as opposed to having the word, 'Independent' by their names on the ballot paper.


The Labour Party ran a personal class-based campaign against the Conservative candidate, calling him "the Tarporley Toff", "Lord Snooty", "Tory Boy Timpson".[21] Labour supporters donned top hats to mock Timpson, whose family own Timpson, a national shoe repair and key-cutting business.[22] This has been viewed by some social commentators as a form of reverse snobbery. Dunwoody, who arrived for the campaign from her 6-acre (24,000 m2) holding in Wales, was termed "One of us",[23] as she was daughter of the deceased Labour MP. The campaign was criticised by a number of national newspapers, including the left-leaning Guardian[24] as well as The Times,[25] while Dunwoody herself was confronted by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight over the fact that she has an entry in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage.[26]

On the last day of the campaign, the accidental communication by a Conservative party worker of voting intention data of 8,000 people to a radio station sparked an investigation by the Information Commissioner into possible breaches of data protection laws.[27]


The constituency had been held by Gwyneth Dunwoody for Labour since its creation in 1983.[28] Just three parties contested the seat at the 2005 UK general election. Dunwoody held the seat with a reduced majority, while both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats enjoyed an increase in their vote share.[29]

General election 2005: Crewe and Nantwich
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Gwyneth Dunwoody 21,240 48.8 Decrease 5.5
Conservative Eveleigh Moore-Dutton 14,162 32.6 Increase 2.2
Liberal Democrats Paul Roberts 8,083 18.6 Increase 5.1
Majority 7,078 16.3 Decrease 7.7
Turnout 43,485 60.0 Decrease 0.2
Labour hold Swing Decrease 3.8


  1. ^ Rallings, Colin; Thrasher, Michael (25 May 2008). "Behind the big win in Crewe lies an even bigger Tory task". The Times.
  2. ^ Row over by-election announcement- BBC News, 30 April 2008
  3. ^ White, Michael (1 May 2008). "Michael White's political briefing: Dunwoody still making trouble". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  4. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Watt, Nicholas (23 May 2008). "Crewe byelection marks end of New Labour, says Cameron". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  5. ^ Bingham, John (23 May 2008). "Crewe and Nantwich by-election: Gordon Brown admits Labour faces 'challenge'". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "Statement of persons nominated" (PDF). Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  7. ^ "Crewe & Nantwich By-Election, 2008". Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2009. The total of the votes cast for all candidates is 41,498, or 41,565 including spoilt ballots, which does not match the official total of 41,856 given by Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council.
  8. ^ "Crewe within Tories' grasp - poll". BBC News. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  9. ^ Hennessy, Patrick (18 May 2008). "Gordon Brown staring at disaster in Crewe and Nantwich by-election". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 21 May 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  10. ^ "Gwyneth's daughter aims to be next Crewe and Nantwich MP". Crewe and Nantwich Guardian. 3 May 2008.
  11. ^ a b c "UKPollingReport Election Guide 2010 » Crewe and Nantwich".
  12. ^ Edward Timpson - Profile Archived 30 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Conservative Party
  13. ^ Elizabeth Shenton biog Archived 10 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine Elizabeth Shenton website
  14. ^ UKIP to fight Crewe by-election UK Independence Party
  15. ^ "Transport expert Robert Smith to contest Crewe by-election" (Press release). Green Party of England and Wales. 8 May 2008.
  16. ^ "Greens hit out at excessive rail fare rises". Crewe and Nantwich Guardian. 19 May 2008.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Robert Smith Green Party". Crewe Chronicle. 21 May 2008.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "Mark Walklate (Independent)". Crewe Chronicle. 13 May 2008. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012.
  19. ^ Electoral Commission. "Register of political parties: Cut Tax on Petrol and Diesel". Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  20. ^ Beauty queen targets Parliament BBC News, 5 May 2008
  21. ^ "Don't be conned by Tory Boy". Crewe and Nantwich Labour. Archived from the original on 25 September 2008.
  22. ^ MacIntyre, Ben (21 May 2008). "Attempts to stir class war backfire for Labour in Crewe & Nantwich". The Times. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  23. ^ "Worth Gambling?". Crewe and Natwich Labour.
  24. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (21 May 2008). "Attacks on toffs will ring hollow until Labour proves its meritocratic mettle". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  25. ^ Finkelstein, Daniel (21 May 2008). "Toff stunt is the end for New Labour". The Times. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  26. ^ "Preview Family Record". Burke's Peerage and Gentry.
  27. ^ "Inquiry into Tory e-mail blunder". BBC News. 21 May 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2008. (Deputy Information Commissioner) Mr Smith said: "It is a serious concern if people's personal details and voting intentions have got into the public domain."
  28. ^ Labour's Member of Parliament - Gwyneth Dunwoody Archived 15 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Crewe and Nantwich Labour Party
  29. ^ 2005 Result: Crewe & Nantwich, BBC News

External links[edit]