Bootle by-elections, 1990

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Two Bootle by-elections were held during 1990, for the British House of Commons constituency of Bootle in Merseyside.

Bootle was one of Labour's safest seats, held by the party since 1945.

May by-election[edit]

The first by-election was caused by the death of Labour Party Member of Parliament for Bootle Allan Roberts, on 21 March 1990. Roberts had held the seat since the 1979 general election, and his majority had remained over 15,000 even in the Conservative landslide victory of 1983. At the 1987 general election, his majority had increased to almost 25,000.

For the by-election Labour selected Michael Carr, a full-time official for the Transport and General Workers Union, and a former Labour councillor. The Conservatives, who had consistently taken second place in the seat, but were struggling in the national polls, nominated James Clappison, a barrister from Yorkshire. He had unsuccessfully contested Barnsley East for the party in 1987, and the South Yorkshire constituency at the 1989 European Parliament election.

The newly named Liberal Democrats had suffered in the national polls since their formation by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, and in Bootle they were challenged by both David Owen's continuing Social Democratic Party and Michael Meadowcroft's continuing Liberal Party, both consisting of members of the former parties who had rejected the merger.

The Green Party also stood a candidate. Screaming Lord Sutch of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party and an independent rounded out the field.

The Loonies gained publicity after the Labour Party election agent unsuccessfully tried to get Sutch charged with having a public house as an election campaign headquarters. This had not been illegal since 1987.

The election was held on 24 May. Despite having to contend with a large field of candidates, Carr increased the Labour vote, to win with more than three-quarters of all the votes cast. The Conservative vote halved, although they retained second position, as the Liberal Democrat vote could not match that of the SDP-Liberal Alliance in 1987. The Greens polled 3.6%, while the continuing Liberals fared poorly, and the continuing Social Democrats were beaten even by the Monster Raving Loonies. Sutch jokingly offered to form a coalition with them, and the party was wound up soon afterwards, but Holmes formed yet another Social Democratic Party of members who wished to continue.

Bootle by-election, May 1990[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Michael Carr 26,737 75.4 + 8.5
Conservative James Clappison 3,220 9.1 − 11.0
Liberal Democrat John Cunningham 3,179 8.9 − 4.1
Green Sean Brady 1,269 3.6 N/A
Liberal Kevin White 474 1.3 N/A
Monster Raving Loony Lord David Sutch 418 1.2 N/A
SDP Jack Holmes 155 0.4 N/A
Independent T. J. Schofield 27 0.1 N/A
Majority 23,517 66.3
Turnout 35,477 50.6
Labour hold Swing + 9.7

November by-election[edit]

Carr died on 20 July, only 57 days after his election. A new by-election was called for the 8 November.

Labour stood Joe Benton, the leader of Sefton Borough Council, a local Justice of the Peace and a personnel manager with Girobank. All the other parties stood the same candidates as in May, although the Social Democratic Party and the independent did not stand. The only addition to the field was David Black, a candidate in the previous year's Vauxhall and Vale of Glamorgan by-elections, standing as "Christian Alliance".

On a low turnout of 39.7%, Benton increased the Labour Party majority again, taking 78.2% of the vote. The Conservative vote held steady, while all the other parties dropped back. This allowed the Loonies to overtake the continuing Liberal Party.

Benton remained the Member of Parliament for the seat until retiring in 2015,[2] while Clappison was elected in 1992 for Hertsmere; he also retired in 2015.

Bootle by-election, November 1990[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Joe Benton 22,052 78.2 + 11.5
Conservative James Clappison 2,587 9.2 - 10.9
Liberal Democrat John Cunningham 2,216 7.9 - 5.1
Green Sean Brady 557 2.0 N/A
Monster Raving Loony Lord David Sutch 310 1.1 N/A
Liberal Kevin White 291 1.0 N/A
Christian Alliance David Black 132 0.5 N/A
Majority 19,465 69.1
Turnout 28,145 39.7
Labour hold Swing + 1.5


  1. ^ Boothroyd, David. "Results of Byelections in the 1987-92 Parliament". United Kingdom Election Results. Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  2. ^ "Joe Benton to step down as Labour MP for Bootle". BBC News. BBC. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Boothroyd, David. "Results of Byelections in the 1987-92 Parliament". United Kingdom Election Results. Retrieved 2015-10-01. 

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