Reading by-election, 1913

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The Reading by-election was a Parliamentary by-election. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post voting system.


Sir Rufus Isaacs was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales created Baron Reading and given a seat in the House of Lords. He had been Liberal MP for Reading since 1903.

Electoral history[edit]

Isaacs had won the last four parliamentary elections in Reading, but at the last General Election he only just managed to hold off the Conservative challenge;

Sir Rufus Isaacs
General Election December 1910 Electorate 11,016
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Rt Hon. Sir Rufus Daniel Isaacs 5,094 50.5
Conservative Leslie Orme Wilson 4,995 49.5
Majority 99 1.0
Turnout 91.6
Liberal hold Swing

This made Reading one of the most marginal seats in the country.


The local Liberal Association were unable to find a local candidate, and after some difficulties, settled on the wealthy and radical outsider George Peabody Gooch to defend the seat. He was elected at the 1906 general election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bath, but lost the seat at the January 1910 general election.[1] He stood again in Bath at the December 1910 general election, but did not regain the seat,[1] Gooch's candidacy provoked the threat of an anti-vaccinationist candidate from within the local party.[2]

The local Unionists re-selected Leslie Orme Wilson. In January 1910, at the General Election, he unsuccessfully stood as the Conservative candidate for Poplar. In December 1910, he was Unionist candidate for Reading, but was defeated by the sitting Liberal candidate, Sir Isaac Rufus, the Attorney-General.[3][4]

A third candidate entered the contest in the figure of J. G. Butler, who was a member of the British Socialist Party. Butler was from London and in March 1913 he had contested the London County Council election, 1913 at Stepney, where he had polled poorly. He secured the backing of the Reading Trades Council and the Reading branch of the Independent Labour Party.[5]


If the Unionists were to hope to win a majority at the next General Election expected to take place in 1914/15, they would need to win Reading as it was statistically No17 on their target list. The intervention of a Socialist candidate at the by-election, thus gave them a good opportunity to gain the seat and establish their candidate as the incumbent.


In the last week of the campaign, following on from an announcement made by Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, of a new rural land policy, the Liberal campaign circulated a leaflet proclaiming Vote for Gooch and the new Liberal land policy – the wage raising policy for Reading. It argued that higher agricultural wages would lead to higher wages in towns. It also argued that a revival in the rural economy would stop labourers migrating to towns and causing unemployment and that a more prosperous countryside would buy more of Reading's products.[6]


Reading by-election, 1913 8th November Electorate 11,088
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Leslie Orme Wilson 5,144 50.3 +0.8
Liberal George Peabody Gooch 4,013 39.3 -11.2
British Socialist Party Joseph George Butler 1,063 10.4 n/a
Majority 1,131 11.0 12.0
Turnout 92.2
Unionist gain from Liberal Swing +6.0

Although the Unionists gained the seat, the fact that the Unionist share of the vote only increased by 0.8% indicated that they would struggle to hold the seat at a General Election when no Socialist would be standing.


A General Election was due to take place by the end of 1915. By the summer of 1914, the following candidates had been adopted to contest that election. Due to the outbreak of war, the election never took place.

General Election 1914/15: Reading Electorate 11,016
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Leslie Orme Wilson
Liberal Henry Norman Spalding[7]
General Election 14 December 1918: Reading Electorate
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Lt-Col. Leslie Orme Wilson 15,204
Labour Thomas Charles Morris 8,410
Liberal Frederick Thoresby 3,143
NSP Lorenzo Edward Quelch 1,462
Unionist hold Swing
  • Wilson was the endorsed candidate of the Coalition Government.


  1. ^ a b Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 66. ISBN 0-900178-27-2. 
  2. ^ Daily Chronicle, 23 October 1913
  3. ^ "ELECTION NOTES.". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 10 December 1910. p. 13. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "PERSONAL.". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 10 December 1910. p. 5. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Justice, 25 October 1913
  6. ^ The Times, 4–7 November 1913
  7. ^ Who's Who
  • Craig, F. W. S. (1974). British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (1 ed.). London: Macmillan.
  • Who's Who:
  • Debrett's House of Commons 1916