Thursday, March 06, 2008

1923: Labour wins first Liverpool Parliamentary seat

On 6th March 1923, the Labour Party won its first Liverpool seat in the House of Commons, as John Henry Hayes defeated his Conservative opponent Tom White in an Edge Hill by-election.

The vote was triggered when incumbent Tory William Watson Rutherford resigned, and the result was something of a shock to many at the time. Even though Liverpool had been the scene of militant working class action for decades, it had never elected a candidate to Parliament who claimed to represent the interests of working people. Conservatives dominated, there had been a handful of Liberals, and the Irish Nationalist T.P. O’Connor had represented Liverpool Scotland for almost forty years.

Indeed, Ireland played a large role in this campaign. The Conservative candidate, a local councillor, was also a prominent member of Liverpool’s Orange Lodge. He fought on the issues of religion and Ulster – which had been separated from the Irish Free State for just three months – receiving backing from the local Orange Grand Master, who declared that it was ‘the bounden duty’ of all Orangemen to elect ‘their tried and trusted friend’.

Edge Hill rejected this sectarianism however, and elected Hayes by 2,471, on a swing of 4.6%. He went on to survive a general election campaign eight months later, and held the seat for eight years. Liverpool West Toxteth elected the city’s second Labour MP, Joseph Gibbins, in 1924.
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