1939 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

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The Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, 1939, was a parliamentary by-election held on 1 August 1939 for the British House of Commons constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, in South Wales.


The by-election was caused by the sitting member, Ivor Guest, succeeding to a title that gave him a seat in the House of Lords. He had been MP for the constituency since winning the seat in 1935.

Election History[edit]

Ivor Guest was elected as a 'National Government' candidate, supported by both local Conservative and Liberal Associations. Guest came from a political family that had in the past had a foot in both party camps, so his selection had been a natural choice. The local Liberal Association had not put forward a candidate for election since the 1929 General election and last won the seat in 1923. The Conservatives had won the seat in 1931, and the Labour party won the seat in 1929. When all three parties had fielded candidates, the election had been a close three-way contest. The result at the last General election was

General Election 1935: Brecon and Radnor[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
National Ivor Guest 22,079 52.6 N/A
Labour Leslie Haden-Guest 19,910 47.4 +7.2
Majority 2,169 5.2 N/A
Turnout 41,989 84.3 -2.8
Registered electors 49,827
National hold Swing


The local Conservative and Liberal parties could not agree on a joint candidate to succeed Guest as MP. The Conservatives wanted Hanning Philipps, and put him forward as candidate without consulting the Liberals. As a result, the local Liberal Association, which was affiliated to Sir John Simon's Liberal National organisation, formally decided to take no part in the by-election campaign. Philipps was the 35-year-old second son of Baron Milford, who had been educated at Eton. The local Labour party needed to find a new candidate, as their last, Leslie Haden Guest, had been elected in a 1937 by-election in the London constituency of Islington North. They chose as their new candidate, William Jackson, who was a farmer from the neighbouring Hereford constituency. Jackson had been a Liberal up until 1931, and was thus a more attractive option to Liberal voters than the Conservative Philipps.

Main Issues and Campaign[edit]

The nature of the constituency meant that issues relating to Agriculture would be foremost in the campaign. This placed the Labour campaign at an advantage as their candidate was a farmer and the Conservative candidate had no understanding of these issues; Hanning Philipps admitted at his adoption meeting that he knew nothing about farming. Jackson concentrated his campaign on the policy of guaranteed prices for farmers. The absence of a Liberal candidate also allowed the Jackson campaign to appeal to those who favoured a Popular Front opposition to the Government that had been advocated by the likes of Sir Stafford Cripps.


The Labour party gained the seat from the National Government.

Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, 1939[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour William Jackson 20,679 53.4 +6.0
Conservative Richard Hanning Philipps 18,043 46.6 N/A
Majority 2,636 6.8 N/A
Turnout 38,722 79.9 -4.4
Registered electors 48,486
Labour gain from National Swing

This was the last by-election to take place before the outbreak of war, and the last to take place for nearly two months as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain toyed with the idea of calling a General Election.


The loss of Brecon and Radnorshire for the National Government would have contributed to Chamberlain's decision not to call a General Election for the Autumn. William Jackson chose not to defend his seat at the 1945 General Election and instead accepted a seat in the House of Lords. The local Conservatives, more mindful of the concerns of the local Liberals, chose as their candidate, another member of the Guest family, who had previously sat in the House of Commons as a Liberal. However, by now, the local Liberal Association had ceased being supporters of the National Government and put up their own candidate. The result at the following General election;

General Election 1945: Brecon and Radnor[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Tudor Watkins 19,725 46.8 -0.6
Conservative Oscar Guest 14,089 33.4 N/A
Liberal David Lewis 8,335 19.8 N/A
Majority 5,636 13.4 N/A
Turnout 42,149 80.0 -4.3
Registered electors 52,689
Labour hold Swing


  • Who's Who: www.ukwhoswho.com
  • By-Elections in British Politics by Cook and Ramsden
  • Manchester Guardian, 1 August 1939
  • Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1939
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1979)
  1. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  2. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  3. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949

See also[edit]