2008 Henley by-election

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The Henley by-election, 2008 to elect a member of the British House of Commons for the constituency of Henley in Oxfordshire was held on 26 June 2008.[1] It followed the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London in May 2008. In order to resign from being an MP, Johnson accepted the post of Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead on 4 June 2008.[2]

The election was won comfortably by the Conservative candidate John Howell with an increased percentage of the popular vote.[3] The governing Labour Party's vote fell by 11% and they finished fifth, losing their deposit.[4]


Henley was considered a safe seat for the Conservative Party—having been held by the party continuously since 1910 up to this election.[5] Johnson had gained a 12,793 majority from the Liberal Democrats at the previous election, though recent local elections have seen the Liberal Democrats' vote rise.[6] Despite this, an easy win for the Conservative Party candidate was predicted, with the Labour Party being given little to no chance of victory.[7] It had been expected that the by-election would be held after the parliamentary summer recess.[8] However, following their victory in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, the Conservatives took the opportunity to bring the by-election forward to 26 June,[1][9] in order to capitalise on their strong support.[10]


For the 2010 general election, candidates had been chosen for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties,[11] but internal party rules may have required re-selection before any by-election was called.

Boris Johnson's father Stanley Johnson was widely expected to seek the Conservative Party's nomination.[12] However, John Howell, an Oxfordshire county councillor, was selected as the Conservative candidate,[13] in preference to Ann Ducker, leader of South Oxfordshire district council, and John Cotton, a South Oxfordshire district councillor.[14]

The Liberal Democrats' candidate was Stephen Kearney, head of a development charity and previously owned and ran a small business.[15] The Liberal Democrats had previously selected Oxfordshire councillor Susan Cooper for the general election, but under Liberal Democrat policies, such selections are not valid for by-elections. When it became apparent a by-election was to be held, a new selection process was run and she was replaced by Kearney.[16]

The Labour candidate was Richard McKenzie, who was previously a local councillor in Reading, having lost his seat in the local council elections of May 2008.[17]

The Green Party continued with its 2005 General Election candidate Mark Stevenson.

The British National Party candidate, Tim Rait, previously stood for European Parliament election in 2004, for Maidenhead in the 2005 General election and the Lothians Region in the 2007 Scottish election.

The United Kingdom Independence Party selected Chris Adams, Buckinghamshire County Organiser for the UKIP and also PPC for Aylesbury. He previously stood in Aylesbury at the 2005 General Election.[18]

Following the candidature of the then-Miss Great Britain, Gemma Garrett, at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election in 2008, the "Beauties for Britain" group stood two candidates - one blonde, the other brunette - in Henley: Amanda Harrington and Louise Cole, respectively.[19][20] However, the party was not registered with the Electoral Commission so they were considered Independent candidates.

The Monster Raving Loony Party fielded candidate Bananaman Owen, whose name was taken from a British television programme. The Harry Bear candidate is the fictional creation of Mail on Sunday columnist Richard Heller.

Election result[edit]

Polling day was Thursday 26 June. The results were declared shortly after 0130 BST on Friday 27 June by the returning officer for South Oxfordshire council.

Henley by-election, 2008[21][22]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative John Howell 19,796 56.9 +3.4
Liberal Democrat Stephen Kearney 9,680 27.8 +1.8
Green Mark Stevenson 1,321 3.8 +0.5
BNP Tim Rait 1,243 3.6 N/A
Labour Richard McKenzie 1,066 3.1 -11.6
UKIP Chris Adams 843 2.4 -0.1
Monster Raving Loony Bananaman Owen 242 0.7 N/A
English Democrat Derek Allpass 157 0.4 N/A
Independent Amanda Harrington 128 0.4 N/A
Common Good Dick Rodgers 121 0.3 N/A
Independent Louise Cole 91 0.3 N/A
Fur Play Party Harry Bear 73 0.2 N/A
Majority 10,116 29.1 +1.6
Turnout 34,761 50.5 -17.4
Conservative hold Swing +0.8

General Election 2005 result[edit]

General Election 2005: Henley
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Boris Johnson 24,894 53.5 +7.4
Liberal Democrat David Turner 12,101 26.0 –1.0
Labour Kaleem Saeed 6,862 14.7 –6.4
Green Mark Stevenson 1,518 3.3 +0.7
UKIP Delphine Gray-Fisk 1,162 2.5 –0.7
Majority 12,793 27.5
Turnout 46,537 67.9 +3.6
Conservative hold Swing +4.2


The nature of campaign was seen as quite aggressive from both sides. The Liberal Democrat Party attacked both the green-belt credentials of the Conservative candidate and his participation in the campaign to save the local hospital,[23][24] as well as producing leaflets which were alleged to imply that the previous MP, Boris Johnson backed their candidate and incorrectly asserting a local school's budget was under threat.[25][26] The Conservatives in return threatened to sue,[27] claiming the allegations of non-involvement were untrue and played on the fact that the Liberal Democrat candidate was not local, but from Plymouth. The Lib Dems responded by saying that their candidate had moved into the constituency and would remain there, the same way the former Conservative MP Boris Johnson had done when he ran.[citation needed]

Reaction from voters to the hard campaigning indicated that some constituents were turned off and some commentators raised questions on the effectiveness of the Liberal Democrat campaign after the results which saw an increased swing to the Conservatives.[28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b June date for Henley by-election BBC News, 5 June 2008
  2. ^ Treasury press release Archived 2008-06-08 at the Wayback Machine. - Manor of Northstead 4 June 2008
  3. ^ Labour fifth as Tories win Henley, BBC News, 27 June 2008
  4. ^ Henley poll deals anniversary blow Thomson, David; BBC News; 27 June 2008; Accessed 27 June 2008
  5. ^ Boris Johnson given safe Tory seat BBC News; 14 July 2000; Accessed 23 June 2008
  6. ^ Henley By-Election To Be Held On June 26 Sky News; 5 June 2008; Accessed 23 June 2008
  7. ^ Bookies Predict Easy Win For Conservative Party In Henley! William Hill; Accessed 23 June 2008
  8. ^ Boris to make way for new Thame MP in the autumn - Thame Gazette 2008-05-10
  9. ^ Tory win in Crewe could prompt Boris by-election - Times Online
  10. ^ Cameron hails 'end of New Labour' - BBC News 2008-05-23
  11. ^ Henley Constituency Profile - UK Polling Report
  12. ^ Bank holiday Boris promises to work 'night and day' as father eyes his Commons seat - The Mail on Sunday 2008-05-06
  13. ^ And the candidate for Henley is..., ConservativeHome
  14. ^ Widow farmer is tipped to succeed Boris as Henley MP - This Is London 2008-05-27
  15. ^ Stephen Kearney Profile - Henley Liberal Democrats
  16. ^ Portcullis: Lib-Dems ditch their local hope, Daily Telegraph.
  17. ^ Reading Chronicle | News | RBC election results
  18. ^ Chris Adams UKIP Candidate for Henley
  19. ^ Towsend, Ian (2008-06-18). "Model MPs?". Oxford Mail. Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  20. ^ Isaby, Jonathan (2008-06-10). "Henley by-election gets glamorous". Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  21. ^ ukpollingreport
  22. ^ Candidates South Oxfordshire Council
  23. ^ "Tory MP John Howell in green belt row". The Daily Mirror. 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  24. ^ "Townlands Hospital Campaign: Conservative candidate did NOT help us". 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  25. ^ Johnson, Stanley (2008-06-24). "Henley by-election: Jolly boating and voting weather for candidates". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  26. ^ Snookes, Harriet (2008-06-20). "'Don't use us as a pawn,' school tells Lib Dems". Thame Gazette. Johnston Press Digital Publishing. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  27. ^ "Tory threat over Lib Dem claims". BBC News. 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  28. ^ "What is at stake in Henley poll?". BBC News. 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  29. ^ Thompson, David (2008-06-27). "Henley poll deals anniversary blow". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-06-27.

External links[edit]