Winchester by-election, 1997

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The 1997 Winchester by-election was a by-election to the UK House of Commons in the constituency of Winchester, Hampshire.

After an unclear (and extremely close) result in Winchester at the general election on 1 May 1997, a new election was allowed by the High Court.

The by-election, held on 20 November, was won by Mark Oaten (Liberal Democrat) with a majority of 21,556.


At the general election on 1 May 1997, Mark Oaten was originally declared the winner, with a majority of two votes over Conservative Gerry Malone, after many recounts and haggling over spoilt ballots.

Oaten was unseated on an electoral petition on 6 October 1997. The High Court held that 54 votes declared void for want of the Official Mark would have changed the result if counted. The court could not be sure they were not the product of a mistake, therefore deemed that the result was uncertain. They allowed the petition and declared the election void. The writ for the new election was moved on 28 October 1997.[1]

The by-election on 20 November resulted in a clear win by Oaten – his majority was 21,556 over second-placed Gerry Malone, the former Conservative MP who had lost his seat in the general election.

Campaigning had focused on Oaten's speaking record in the House of Commons after the general election,[2] while the nature of the controversial 1 May election result was also an issue for some Liberal Democrat voters. The Independent wrote, "Although careful not to articulate it themselves, their unofficial campaign slogan is: 'When the umpire gives you out, you should walk'",[2] alluding to the unseated Malone.

The Labour Party obtained their worst ever results in a parliamentary election, in part because they hardly campaigned at all and instead focused their priorities on the by-election in Beckenham held on the same day.

Screaming Lord Sutch, candidate in the by-election

Both the original and rerun election involved an incidence of a candidate using an attempted confusing description. Richard Huggett described himself in the general election as Liberal Democrat Top Choice For Parliament (leading to Oaten, the official Lib Dem candidate, to use the ballot paper description Liberal Democrat Leader Paddy Ashdown) and in the by-election as Literal Democrat Mark Here to Win. The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 put an end to this practice.

This was also the last election (by or general) in which Screaming Lord Sutch, founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, ran for a parliamentary seat. He killed himself in 1999.


By-election 1997: Winchester[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten 37,006 68.0 +26.0
Conservative Gerry Malone 15,450 28.4 −13.6
Labour Patrick Davies 944 1.7 −8.8
UKIP Robin Page 521 1.0 +0.2
Monster Raving Loony Lord David Sutch 316 0.6 +0.1
"Literal Democrat Mark Here to Win" Richard Huggett 59 0.1 −0.9
Natural Law Rosemary Barry 48 0.1
Independent Conservative Roger Everest 40 0.1
Majority 21,556 39.6 +39.6
Turnout 68.7
Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative Swing 19.8

General election result[edit]

At the general election (held five months before the by-election), the top two candidates' votes were very close.

General Election 1997: Winchester
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten 26,100 42.1
Conservative Gerry Malone 26,098 42.1
Labour Patrick Davies 6,528 10.5
Referendum Peter Strand 1,598 2.6
"Liberal Democrat Top Choice for Parliament" Richard Huggett 640 1.0
UKIP Derek Rumsey 476 0.8
Independent John Browne 307 0.5
Monster Raving Loony Peter Stockton 307 0.5
Majority 2
Turnout 62,054
Void election result Swing

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bryn Morgan (29 March 2001). "By-election results: 1997-2000" (PDF). Research paper 01/36. House of Commons Library. p. 11. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Castle, Stephen (16 November 1997). "Tory tries the woolly pully way to power". The Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2012.