Merthyr Tydfil by-election, 1915

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The Merthyr Tydfil by-election, 1915 was a parliamentary by-election held on 25 November 1915 for the British House of Commons constituency of Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorganshire, Wales.

The seat had become vacant when the constituency's Labour Member of Parliament (MP), Keir Hardie, died on 26 September 1915, aged 59. He had held the seat since the 1900 general election, when he was elected as one of the first two Labour MPs.


In May 1915 the Liberals, the Conservatives and Labour had formed a Coalition Government, although the majority[citation needed] of the Labour Party had stayed outside the Government. Furthermore, from August 1914 until June 1918, a war-time electoral truce existed between the three parties; the party holding a seat would not be opposed by the other two at a by-election. The Conservatives and Liberals therefore did not contest the by-election.

Merthyr Tydfil was a miners’ seat, and power within the local Labour Party lay within the locally dominant trade union, the South Wales Miners' Federation. The SWMF balloted their members to determine the Labour candidate.

The selection procedure quickly became a battle between competing factions of the Independent Labour Party, played out within the administrative structures of the SWMF. The two principal candidates were James Winstone, the President of the Federation, and Charles Stanton, a Miners’ Agent in the constituency.

Winstone was anti-conscriptionist and pro-Union of Democratic Control. Stanton, on the other hand, was Vice-President of the British Workers League, a 'patriotic labour' group which was anti-socialist and pro-war.[1] Stanton had fought East Glamorganshire as a Labour candidate in December 1910.

The SWMF conducted three successive ballots after which Winstone was narrowly selected.[citation needed]


Third Ballot: Date unknown
Candidate Votes %
James Winstone 7,832 55.7
Charles Stanton 6,232 44.3
Majority 1,600 11.4
Turnout 14,064 Unknown


Following the result of the selection, Stanton resigned as a miners’ agent and fought the election as a pro-war 'National' candidate. He attracted support from the local Liberals and Conservatives on a 'straight war ticket "to fight against the Huns for our homeland."'.[2]

The wife of David Watts Morgan, Agent of the No. 1 Rhonnda District of the SWMF and to be elected Labour MP for Rhondda East in 1918, supported Stanton, an act he (Morgan) later had to apologise for.[3]


On a reduced turnout, Stanton won the seat with a majority of 4,206 votes.

At the 1918 general election, the Merthyr seat was divided into two single-member constituencies. Stanton fought the Aberdare seat and won it by a larger majority, defeating the pacifist Labour candidate Thomas Evan Nicholas. The British Workers League had transformed itself into the National Democratic and Labour Party and Stanton stood under its label, with the Coalition Coupon.


Merthyr Tydfil by-election, 25 November 1915
Party Candidate Votes % ±
style="background-color: {{Template:Independent Labour[citation needed]/meta/color}}; width: 5px;" | [[Independent Labour[citation needed]|{{Template:Independent Labour[citation needed]/meta/shortname}}]] Charles Stanton 10,286 62.8 N/A
Labour James Winstone 6,080 37.2 −2.4
Majority 4,206 25.6 N/A
Turnout 24,192 67.7 −13.6
Independent Labour[citation needed] gain from Labour Swing
General Election, December 1910: Merthyr Tydfil
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Edgar Rees Jones 12,258 42.2 +1.2
Labour James Keir Hardie 11,507 39.6 +2.9
Liberal Unionist J.H. Watts 5,277 18.2
Majority 6,981 24.0 −4.4
Majority 6,230 21.4 −2.7
Turnout 23,219 81.3 −11.7
Liberal hold Swing

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Millman, Brock. Managing domestic dissent in First World War Britain. Retrieved 13 January 2012.  (Query - did Stanton hold this office in November 1915?[citation needed] The Wkipedia article on the BWL states it was set up in 1916. And Ivor Rees' article on Stanton in the National Library of Wales Journal states that 'Stanton and Ben Tillett ... among others founded the British Workers' National League in March 1916 (with Stanton as a vice-president)'
  2. ^ Rees, Ivor. "Thomas Evan Nicholas 1879-1971" (PDF). N.L.W. Jnl., 35 (2010). Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Morgan, David Watts (1867–1933)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 


  • Craig, F. W. S. (1974). British parliamentary election results 1885-1918 (1 ed.). London: Macmillan.