1945 Chelmsford by-election

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Chelmsford in Essex, showing boundaries used from 1918 to 1945.

The Chelmsford by-election, 1945 was a parliamentary by-election for the British House of Commons constituency of Chelmsford, Essex on 26 April 1945.


The by-election was caused by the death of the sitting Conservative MP, John Macnamara. He was killed on active service in Italy on 22 December 1944. He had been MP here since holding the seat in 1935.

Election history[edit]

Chelmsford had been won by the Conservative Party at every election since 1924, when they re-gained the seat from the Liberals, and was now a safe seat. The result at the last General election was as follows;

1935 general election : Chelmsford [1] Electorate 61,661
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative John Macnamara 28,314 70.8
Labour Fred Hughes 11,690 29.2
Majority 16,624 41.6
Turnout 40,004 65.4
Conservative hold Swing


The local Conservatives selected 35-year-old Flight Lieutenant Brian Cook. Before the war he was a painter, designer and publisher.[2] The Labour party had selected Dr Mary Day to contest a General Election expected to take place in 1939-40.[3] There had been no Liberal selected.

At the outbreak of war, the Conservative, Liberal and Labour parties had agreed an electoral truce which meant that when a by-election occurred, the party that was defending the seat would not be opposed by an official candidate from the other two parties. When the Labour and Liberal parties joined the Coalition government, it was agreed that any by-election candidate defending a government seat would receive a letter of endorsement jointly signed by all the party leaders.

The Common Wealth Party put forward 29-year-old Ernest Millington as candidate. He served with the RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, where he rose to the rank of wing commander and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945.


Polling day was set for 26 April 1945. When nominations closed, it was to reveal a two horse race, between the Conservative Cook and Millington for the Common Wealth party.

Cook received a joint letter of endorsement from all the leaders of the parties in the coalition.

Millington advocated a socialist programme based on nationalisation of the land and public ownership.


Millington gained the seat;

Chelmsford by-election, 1945 [4] Electorate 78,806
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Common Wealth Ernest Millington 24,548 57.5
Conservative Brian Batsford 18,117 42.5
Majority 6,431 15.0
Turnout 54.1
Common Wealth gain from Conservative Swing


When the 29-year-old Millington took his seat, he was the youngest MP in the House, which had been elected in 1935. The victory signalled the shift in public opinion that led the Labour party to pull out of the wartime coalition government and win a landslide victory in the 5 July 1945 general election. Millington held his seat in the 1945 general election and joined the Labour Party in April 1946. The result at the following General election;

General election 1945: Chelmsford [5] Electorate 79,638
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Common Wealth Ernest Millington 27,309 46.7
Conservative Hubert Ashton 25,229 43.2
Liberal Hilda Buckmaster 5,909 10.1
Majority 2,080 3.6
Turnout 73.4
Common Wealth hold Swing

Cook, as Brian Batsford, was elected as Tory MP for Ealing South at a by-election on 12 June 1958.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  2. ^ http://www.ukwhoswho.com
  3. ^ Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party 1937-40
  4. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  5. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949