Bodmin by-election, 1922

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The Bodmin constituency in 1922 shown within Cornwall and Devon

The Bodmin by-election, 1922 was a parliamentary by-election for the British House of Commons. The constituency of Bodmin in Cornwall polled on 24 February 1922. The by-election was notable for the opposition Liberal Party gaining a seat from the Coalition supporting Conservative Party.


The by-election was caused by the death of the sitting Coalition Conservative MP, Sir Charles Augustin Hanson on 17 January 1922.[1] Hanson had been MP for Bodmin since himself winning the seat in a by-election on 15 August 1916.

Electoral history[edit]

The constituency was a traditional Unionist/Liberal marginal. The last Liberal win came in January 1910. In December 1910 a Liberal Unionist narrowly gained the seat. In 1918 the Coalition Government of Lloyd George chose to endorse the encumbent Unionist candidate. The result at the General Election in 1918 was;

1918 General Election: Bodmin[2] Electorate 30,279
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Sir Charles Augustin Hanson 12,228 58.4 n/a
Liberal Isaac Foot 8,705 41.6 n/a
Majority 3,523 16.8 n/a
Turnout 69.1 n/a
Unionist hold Swing n/a


  • The Bodmin Unionists had already selected Major-General Sir Frederick Cuthbert Poole as the Coalition candidate to replace Sir Charles Hanson who had indicated he was standing down at the next election. [3] Poole was Hanson's son-in-law. [4] Poole has usually been described as a Coalition Conservative but The Times newspaper did refer to him as a Coalition Liberal in its report on the by-election polling day.[5]
  • The Bodmin Liberals re-adopted 41-year-old Plymouth solicitor Isaac Foot who had fought Bodmin twice before, [6] including at the last election. He had also stood as Liberal candidate in the Plymouth Sutton by-election, 1919 when he was beaten by Nancy Astor.
  • The Labour Party had never before contested Bodmin and did not put forward a candidate this time.


The Coalition was fighting on its record of having won the war and negotiated the peace and was relying on appeals to the electorate of being allowed to get on with the task of steering the country through the difficult domestic and international waters currently flowing around the British ship of state. Sir Austen Chamberlain in a letter to General Poole asked for the support of the electors for the giving of peace to Ireland and the restoration of that economic and financial stability necessary for good trade and prosperity.[7]

For the Independent Liberals, Foot attacked the government's record in waste and inefficiency. He said that the electorate had recognised the 1918 general election as a fraud and resented having been tricked by 'delusive promises' and 'crooked politics'.[8]

Lib-Lab Pact?[edit]

One question which was raised during the round of by-elections being fought at this time, as the date of the next general election neared, was if there was a some kind of electoral arrangement between the Independent, Asquithian Liberals and the Labour Party. Foot had no Labour opponent in Bodmin but Labour had not contested the seat at the 1918 general election either. The Executive Committee of the Labour Party in Bodmin did however issue a strong attack on the government's record, especially what it described as 'its wanton waste of the country's resources' and it recommended that Labour supporters should vote for Foot. [9] By-elections were taking place at Manchester Clayton, Camberwell North and Wolverhampton West in this period as well as at Bodmin. In the other three seats the Independent Liberals did not stand candidates, allowing Labour to take on the Coalition in straight fights with the result that Manchester and Wolverhampton were Labour gains. The Coalition leadership regarded this as evidence that understandings, formal or unofficial, were being entered into by the opposition parties in anticipation of a similar but formal arrangement for the next general election, but that was denied by Labour and Liberal spokesmen. The Times tended to accept these denials, given the difficulty of imposing national arrangements on independently minded local Liberal and Labour constituency organisations, but clearly it was then in the interests of the opposition parties to avoid fighting each other as far as possible, as it made it easier to for the government candidate to win.[10]


The by-election turnout was up on the last general election. The result was a gain for the Liberal Party from the Coalition Unionist. Foot obtained a swing of 14.8%.

Bodmin by-election, 1922: Cornwall, Bodmin [11] Electorate 32,578
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Isaac Foot 13,751 56.4 +14.8
Conservative Sir Frederick Cuthbert Poole 10,610 43.6 -14.8
Majority 3.141 12.8 29.6
Turnout 74.8 +5.7
Liberal gain from Conservative Swing +14.8

The size of the Liberal victory has been described by one historian as a 'landslide'. The result was said to have turned the tide for the Liberals in the region restoring the party as the true heir of the old Radical tradition [12] and that as a result Cornish Methodism now had a charismatic spokesman at Westminster. [13]


Foot and Poole were to face off again at the general election later in the year. On this occasion Foot again won, though his majority was halved;

General Election, 1922: Cornwall, Bodmin [14] Electorate 33,265
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Isaac Foot 14,292 53.4 -3.0
Conservative Sir Frederick Cuthbert Poole 12,467 46.6 +3.0
Majority 1,825 6.8 -6.0
Turnout 80.4 +5.2
Liberal hold Swing -3.0


  1. ^ The Times, 18 January 1922, p12
  2. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  3. ^ The Times, 5 September 1921, p5
  4. ^ The Times, 11 February 1922, p7
  5. ^ The Times, 24 February 1922
  6. ^ The Times, 30 January 1922, p12
  7. ^ The Times, 21 February 1922, p10
  8. ^ The Times, 27 February 1922, p10
  9. ^ Michael Foot & Alison Highet, Isaac Foot: a Westcountry boy – Apostle of England; Politico’s Publishing, 2006 p138
  10. ^ The Times, 21 February 1922, p10
  11. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949, p310
  12. ^ Garry Tregidga, The Liberal Party in South West-Britain since 1918: Decline, Dormancy and Rebirth; University of Exeter Press, 2000 p27
  13. ^ Garry Tregidga (ed.) Killerton, Camborne and Westminster: The Political Correspondence of Sir Francis and Lady Acland, 1910-1929; Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 2006 p42
  14. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949, p310

See also[edit]