Penrith and Cockermouth by-election, 1921

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The Penrith and Cockermouth by-election, 1921 was a parliamentary by-election held for the British House of Commons constituency of Penrith and Cockermouth in Cumberland on 13 May 1921.


The by-election was caused by the resignation of the sitting Coalition Conservative Member of Parliament, the Right Hon. James Lowther. Lowther was retiring as Speaker of the House of Commons and was created Viscount Ullswater later in 1921.


The election was straight fight between Major-General Cecil Lowther, the brother of the retiring MP, soldier and former big game hunter for the Unionists and Levi Collison, an art printer from Preston in Lancashire for the Asquithian Independent Liberal Party.[1]



For the Liberals, the by-election was an opportunity to attack the record of the Coalition government of David Lloyd George. They particularly tried to highlight the waste and inefficiency of the government with the local farming community. They were however hampered by years of political inactivity and poor organisation in the constituency. It was reported that Collison, despite his principal trade of art printer, had considerable experience of farming, advocated an advanced agricultural policy and that many local farmers regarded him as a real friend. Collison also favoured some degree of nationalisation in the mining industry, which was less popular, even against the background of coal strikes which had made supplies in the area scarce.[2]


Lowther strongly attacked all forms of socialism and schemes of nationalisation, raising the spectre of land nationalisation if the electorate deserted the coalition. He also hoped to gain votes through his family association with the previous MP who had held the seat since 1886 [3] and with Speaker Lowther’s son, Christopher who was Coalition Tory MP in nearby North Cumberland.

The result[edit]

The by-election resulted in a narrow win for the Coalition candidate, a majority of just 31 votes out of 15,325 cast. Perhaps a candidate less closely connected to Speaker Lowther would not have been able to hold the seat. Lowther commented that the result of the election showed the public did not favour nationalisation and did not wish to Ireland given complete independence. Collison’s attacks on government extravagance were seen as the reason he came so near to gaining the seat.[4] Lowther and Collison faced each other again in the 1922 general election with Collison successful on that occasion by 378 votes.[5]

The votes[edit]

Penrith and Cockermouth by-election, 1921 [6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Sir Cecil Lowther 7,678 50.1
Liberal Levi Collison 7,647 49.9
Majority 31 0.2
Turnout 15,325 74.0
Conservative hold Swing


  1. ^ The Times, 7 May 1921 p7
  2. ^ The Times, 7 May 1921 p7
  3. ^ The Times, 7 May 1921 p7
  4. ^ The Times, 16 May 1921 p10
  5. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow, 1949 p316
  6. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow, 1949 p316

See also[edit]