Bassetlaw by-election, 1968

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The Bassetlaw by-election, 1968 was a parliamentary by-election for the constituency of Bassetlaw held on 31 October 1968. It was caused by the death of the former Labour Member of Parliament, Fred Bellenger.

The Labour candidate, Joe Ashton, was a Sheffield city councillor. His Conservative opponent was Jim Lester, a Nottingham businessman.[1] The Liberal party decided against contesting the seat for financial reasons.[2] There was one independent, Tom Lynch of the National Union of Small Shopkeepers, who campaigned for a coalition of all the parties and the end of the fivepenny post.[3]

Early reports suggested a low turnout was likely, due to voter disenchantment with the major parties, and Labour had some reason to fear its supporters staying away. Pit closures were an important issue in a constituency with a large mining vote. Ashton argued that the Labour government's approach, which included redundancy payments to miners over the age of 55, was better than the approach of the Conservatives when they were in power.[3] The other major issues were reported as taxes, prices, employment and education. Although Bellenger had had a majority at the last general election of 10,428 and the seat would require a swing of 11.6 per cent at a time when opinion polls put the Conservatives just 7.5 per cent ahead,[1] they took hope from the fact that recent by-elections in Nelson and Colne and Oldham West had seen comparable movements[3] as economic conditions made the government very unpopular.

On the day, Labour retained its seat but its majority was slashed to just 740 votes, with the independent candidate picking up over a thousand. Commentators suggested that although this was a bad result for Labour ("If Labour's grip on Bassetlaw, a bedrock citadel of theirs for 44 years, is reduced to a perilous hanging-on by the fingernails, they cannot fail to be unnerved") they could take hope from the fact that the trend since previous by-elections seemed to be moving back them.[4]

Bassetlaw by-election, 1968[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Joe Ashton 21,394 49.64 -11.99
Conservative Jim Lester 20,654 47.92 +9.55
Independent Tom Lynch 1,053 2.44 N/A
Majority 740 1.72 -21.55
Turnout 43,101 68.0 -5.3
Labour hold Swing


  1. ^ a b Chartres, John (30 October 1968). "Bassetlaw crucial pointer for major parties". The Times. 
  2. ^ "Liberal new look group named". The Times. 18 July 1968. 
  3. ^ a b c Chartres, John (23 October 1968). "Miners key to Bassetlaw". The Times. 
  4. ^ David Wood, "Labour majority cut to 740 at Bassetlaw", The Times, 1 November 1968.
  5. ^ "1968 By Election Results". British Elections Ephemera Archive. Archived from the original on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2015-08-21.