1974 Newham South by-election

The Newham South by-election was a by-election held on 23 May 1974 for the British House of Commons constituency of Newham South. It was triggered when Elwyn Jones, the constituency's Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), was appointed as Lord Chancellor and subsequently awarded a life peerage.

Newham South by-election

23 May 1974
Candidate Nigel Spearing Ivor Shipley Michael Lobb
Party Labour Liberal National Front
Popular vote 9,321 1,862 1,713
Percentage 62.6% 12.5% 11.5%

Candidate Frank Fox
Party Conservative
Popular vote 1,651
Percentage 11.1%

MP before election

Elwyn Jones

Subsequent MP

Nigel Spearing

The by-election occurred soon after the February 1974 general election, and indeed proved to be the only by-election of the Parliament, the next general election being held in October. Given that there was a hung parliament, and at the time of the by-election a general election was thought likely, any changes in the share of the vote between the main parties could have given a guide as to the likely future government.

Created for the February general election, the constituency was regarded as a safe Labour seat. Jones had won a majority of more than 50%,[1] and had held the predecessor seat of West Ham South since its creation at the 1950 general election. In February, the Liberal Party and Conservative Party had each shared around one eighth of the vote, while the far right National Front had achieved one of their best results in the country, taking 6.9%.

Labour chose Nigel Spearing as its candidate; previously the MP for Acton, he had lost his seat at the February election. The Liberals, Conservatives and National Front all fielded the same candidates who had stood in February, hoping to build on their performance. An "independent Labour" candidate also stood.

The election campaign was dominated by the impending general election, and by the threat posed by the National Front.


Spearing achieved an easy victory, although his vote dropped slightly from the February election. The Liberal and Conservative votes both dropped slightly, while despite a strong anti-fascist campaign, the National Front picked up votes to finish third, ahead of the Conservatives. The Conservatives had not finished fourth in an English by-election since World War II and did not do so again until Bermondsey in 1983.

At the October general election, Spearing held the seat with an increased majority. The Conservatives and Liberals failed to gain ground, while the National Front began to fall back. Spearing held the seat until it was abolished in 1997.


Newham South by-election 1974[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Nigel Spearing 9,321 62.6 - 3.4
Liberal Ivor Shipley 1,862 12.5 - 2.3
National Front Michael Lobb 1,713 11.5 + 4.6
Conservative Frank Fox 1,651 11.1 - 1.1
Independent Labour Sydney South 332 2.2 N/A
Majority 7,459 50.1 - 1.2
Labour hold Swing
General election February 1974: Newham South
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Elwyn Jones 23,952 66.1
Liberal Ivor Shipley 5,369 14.8
Conservative Frank Fox 4,422 12.2
National Front Michael Lobb 2,511 6.9
Majority 18,583 51.3
Turnout 63.2
Labour hold Swing


  1. UK Election Results: February 1974
  2. "1974 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
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