1921 Lewisham West by-election

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Lewisham West in London 1918-49

The Lewisham West by-election, 1921 was a by-election held on 13 September 1921 for the British House of Commons constituency of Lewisham West.


The by-election was triggered by the death of the serving Unionist Member of Parliament (MP), Sir Edward Coates.

Electoral history[edit]

This was considered a normally safe Conservative seat - Coates had been unopposed at the preceding general election;

General Election 1918
Party Candidate Votes % ±
C Unionist Edward Coates Unopposed
Unionist hold
C indicates candidate endorsed by the coalition government.



Excessive government expenditure was a major theme of the campaign: Dawson ran under the 'Conservative and Anti-Waste' banner, and Raffety also proclaimed himself an opponent of high spending.[1]

No other major issues separated the candidates - all, for instance, declared themselves in favour of proportional representation[2] - and the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, who questioned all three on behalf of women voters, declined to make a recommendation.[3] Dawson won the support of the Middle Classes Union. The only point of controversy consisted of rumours which circulated to the effect that Dawson, who had worked for the Ministry of Munitions during the war, was a foreigner. He responded, according to The Times, by issuing a leaflet entitled 'Dirt' which insisted that he was of pure British stock, and produced details.[4] An article in the Washington Post claimed that he admitted to being the illegitimate son of Field Marshal Sir Neville Chamberlain, and to have originally been given the surname Duvalle.[5]


The result was a close three-way fight, with Dawson elected with a majority of only 847. British Pathe has newsreel footage of Dawson emerging victorious from the count. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/sir-philip-dawson/query/election

Lewisham West by-election, 1921
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Philip Dawson 9,427 38.9
Anti-Waste League Walter George Windham 8,580 35.4
Liberal Frank Raffety 6,211 25.6
Majority 847 3.5
Turnout 24,218 59.2
Unionist hold Swing


Dawson would go on to hold the seat until his death 17 years later.

General Election 15 November 1922[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Philip Dawson 16,216
Liberal Barrett Lennard Albemarle O'Malley 8,469
Unionist hold Swing


  1. ^ The Times, 27 August 1921.
  2. ^ 'West Lewisham Contest. Three Candidates Nominated', The Times, 5 September 1921.
  3. ^ 'Women And West Lewisham No Approved Candidate', The Times 9 September 1921.
  4. ^ 'West Lewisham Poll To-Day. A Personal Attack.' The Times 13 September 1921.
  5. ^ 'SIR PHILIP DAWSON FORCED TO TELL HIS BIRTH SECRET', Washington Post, 30 September 1921, page 6.
  6. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949

See also[edit]