Skipton by-election, 1944

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The Skipton by-election, 1944 was a parliamentary by-election for the British House of Commons constituency of Skipton, Yorkshire held on 7 January 1944.


The by-election was caused by the death of the sitting Conservative MP, George William Rickards on 27 November 1943. He had been MP here since holding the seat at the Skipton by-election, 1933.

Election history[edit]

Skipton had been won by the Conservatives at every election since 1918. At the 1933 by-election, the Conservatives had won on a minority vote in a four-way contest. The result at the last General election was as follows;

1935 General Election : Skipton[1] Electorate 51,041
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative George William Rickards 22,847 56.2
Labour John Percival Davies 17,788 43.8
Majority 5,059 12.4
Turnout 40,635 79.6
Conservative hold Swing


  • The local Conservatives selected 61-year-old local clothing manufacturer, Harry Riddiough.
  • The Labour party had reselected John Percival Davies as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the general election expected to take place in 1939. He had contested the constituency at the previous general election in 1935. He had remained their candidate in waiting.

At the outbreak of war, the Conservative, Liberal and Labour parties had agreed an electoral truce which meant that when a by-election occurred, the party that was defending the seat would not be opposed by an official candidate from the other two parties. When the Labour and Liberal parties joined the Coalition government, it was agreed that any by-election candidate defending a government seat would receive a letter of endorsement jointly signed by all the party leaders.


The writ was moved on 15 December 1943 and polling day was set for 7 January 1944, 41 days after the death of the previous MP. When nominations closed, it was to reveal a three horse race,

Conservative candidate Harry Riddiough received a joint letter of endorsement from all the leaders of the parties in the coalition. His campaign was hopeful that support for those opposed to the Conservatives would be evenly split between his two opponents. As the only local candidate he hoped this would help his campaign.

The Skipton District Labour Party decided to endorse Lawson, the Common Wealth candidate, in exchange for the guarantee that Lawson would stand down in favour of a Labour candidate at the next general election.[4] This decision further isolated the candidacy of Joe Toole, the Independent Labour candidate. Toole's campaign was left with no local organisation.[5] In contrast, the Lawson campaign took the shape of previous Common Wealth campaigns which had been successful at the Eddisbury by-election, 1943, organised by Kim Mackay[6] and given the political direction of Richard Acland.[7] In addition to full time organisers, the Lawson campaign was supported by about 200 volunteers from outside the constituency. Many of these were apparently teachers, taking advantage of the school holidays.[8]

Local farmers in the constituency were disenchanted with the prospect of supporting the government candidate because of low farm prices and the government's ploughing up policy.[9]


Skipton by-election, 1944[10] Electorate 51,041
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Common Wealth Hugh McDowall Lawson 12,222 44.8
Conservative Harry Riddiough 12,001 44.0
Independent Labour Joseph Toole 3,029 11.1
Majority 221 0.8
Turnout 27,252 54.9
Common Wealth gain from Conservative Swing


Despite winning, Lawson made good his pledge not to contest the seat at the general election and instead stood and lost at Harrow West. Neither Riddiough or Toole stood again. Labour's John Davies did get his chance to contest the seat again at the 1945 general election but despite the swing to Labour across the country, he failed to win here. The result at the General election;

General Election 1945: Skipton[11] Electorate 53,877
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative George Burnaby Drayson 17,905 41.5
Labour John Percival Davies 15,704 36.4
Liberal E. Townsend 9,546 22.1
Majority 2,201 5.1
Turnout 43,155 80.1
Conservative gain from Common Wealth Swing

See also[edit]


  1. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  2. ^ "The Second Common Wealth Win - 221 Majority At Skipton". The Times. 10 January 1944. p. 2. 
  3. ^ ‘LAWSON, Hugh McDowall’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2014; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014 ; online edn, April 2014 accessed 4 September 2014
  4. ^ By-Elections in British Politics by Cook and Ramsden
  5. ^ Trial By Ballot by Ivor RM Davies
  6. ^ By-Elections in British Politics by Cook and Ramsden
  7. ^ Trial By Ballot by Ivor RM Davies
  8. ^ Manchester Guardian, 10 January 1944
  9. ^ Sunday Express, 9 January 1944
  10. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  11. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949

External links[edit]