Mid Lanarkshire by-election, 1888

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The Mid Lanarkshire by-election, 1888 was a parliamentary by-election held on 27 April 1888 for the British House of Commons constituency of Mid Lanarkshire.

Previous MP[edit]

The seat had become vacant in April 1888.[1] The constituency's Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), Stephen Mason resigned his seat. He did this by being appointed Steward of the Manor of Northstead, a notional offices of profit under the Crown, which is used to permit MPs to vacate their seats.

Mason (1832-21 April 1890) was a Glasgow merchant, who had been the MP for the seat since the 1885 general election. He was known for having written pamphlets on political topics, such as monetary and land questions, the Anglo-French treaty of 1860 and banking in Scotland.[2]


Three candidates were nominated. The list below is set out in descending order of the number of votes received at the by-election.

1. The Liberal Party candidate was John Wynford Philipps (30 May 1860 – 28 March 1938). He was called to the bar of England and Wales in 1886.

Philipps contested Devizes at the 1886 general election. He was MP for this seat from the by-election until he resigned in 1894. He was subsequently elected MP for Pembrokeshire at an 1898 by-election. He sat for the Welsh county until he was created the 1st Lord St Davids in 1908. He was advanced in the peerage as the 1st Viscount St Davids in 1918.[3]

2. The Conservative candidate was William Robert Bousfield (12 January 1854 – 16 July 1943), admitted to the bar of England and Wales in 1880.

Bousfield was elected MP for Hackney North at a by-election in 1892 and retained that seat until he was defeated in 1906.[4]

3. Representing the Labour interest, as an Independent Labour candidate, was the Lanarkshire born (James) Keir Hardie (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915).

Hardie had a background as a manual worker, which was unusual for a political candidate in 1888. Previously some working men, with a trade union background, had been elected to Parliament as Liberal-Labour candidates but none without Liberal support.

Hardie had worked as a miner. He became a trade unionist and then a journalist. At the time of the by-election he was a member of the Liberal Party, but the local Liberal Association rejected him as its candidate at the by-election.

Hardie subsequently was a leading figure in the development of the Labour Party. He was elected Independent Labour MP for West Ham South in 1892 and sat until defeated in 1895. During this time he was the person who presided over the meeting which created the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893. Hardie contested Bradford East for the ILP in a by-election in 1896 and Preston at the 1900 general election for the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). He also contested and won Merthyr Tydfil in the 1900 election. The LRC was renamed the Labour Party in 1906. Hardie was the Parliamentary Labour Party Chairman (its de facto leader) from 1906 until 1908. He continued to represent Merthyr Tydfil until he died in 1915.[5]


27 April 1888 by-election: Mid Lanarkshire [6][7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal John Philipps 3,847 52.1 -4.5
Conservative William Bousfield 2,917 39.5 -4.0
Independent Labour Keir Hardie 617 8.4 N/A
Majority 930 12.6 -0.4
Turnout 7,381 80.7 +5.9
Liberal hold Swing
Registered electors 9,143
  • Resignation of Mason, April 1888
General Election 1886: Mid Lanarkshire [8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Stephen Mason 3,779 56.5
Liberal Unionist James Widrington Shand-Harvey 2,909 43.5
Majority 870 13.0
Turnout 6,688 74.8
Liberal hold Swing
Registered electors 8,939

See also[edit]


  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1885-1918, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Macmillan Press 1974)
  1. ^ Punch, in its edition of 28 April 1888 referred to the moving of the Writ on Monday 16 April.

    "Writ moved today for election for Mid-Lanarkshire. So exit STEPHEN MASON. Pity he wasn't here just another night to take part in revolt against Lord Advocate ...".

  2. ^ Who's Who of British Members of Parliament, Volume II 1886-1918, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (Harvester Press 1978)
  3. ^ (1) Craig. (2) Who Was Who, Vol. III 1929-1940 (Adam and Charles Black 1947).
  4. ^ (1) Craig. (2) Who Was Who, Vol. IV 1941-1950 (Adam and Charles Black, 3rd edition 1964).
  5. ^ (1) Craig. (2) Dictionary of Labour Biography, edited by Greg Rosen (Politico's Publishing 2001).
  6. ^ Craig
  7. ^ The Constitutional Year Book, 1904, published by Conservative Central Office, page 182 (206 in web page)
  8. ^ (1) Craig. (2) Debrett's House of Commons and Judicial Bench, 1889