1908 Dundee by-election

There was a by-election in the dual member constituency of Dundee in 1908.

1908 Dundee by-election

← 1906 9 May 1908 Jan. 1910 →
  1908 Winston Churchill.jpg GH Stuart-Bunning.jpg
Candidate Churchill Baxter Stuart
Party Liberal Liberal Unionist Labour
Popular vote 7,099 4,370 4,014
Percentage 44.0 27.1 24.9

Candidate Scrymgeour
Party Scottish Prohibition
Popular vote 655
Percentage 4.1

MP before election

Edmund Robertson

Subsequent MP

Winston Churchill


The Liberal MP Edmund Robertson was elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Lochee.

Electoral historyEdit

General election 1906: Dundee (2 seats)
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Edmund Robertson 9,276 31.7 +1.5
Labour Alexander Wilkie 6,833 23.3 New
Liberal Henry Robson 6,122 20.9 -6.4
Liberal Unionist Ernest Shackleton 3,865 13.2 -6.8
Conservative A. Duncan Smith 3,183 10.9 -9.2
Majority 5,411 8.4
Majority 711 2.4
Turnout 29,279 81.9 +12.4
Liberal hold Swing
Labour gain from Liberal Swing


Thirty-four-year-old Winston Churchill was selected by the local Liberal Association to be their candidate. Churchill had been elected Liberal MP for Manchester North West at the 1906 general election but had lost his seat at the 1908 Manchester North West by-election on 24 April. Churchill had been appointed to the Cabinet by H. H. Asquith as President of the Board of Trade. Under the law at the time, a newly appointed Cabinet Minister was obliged to seek re-election at a by-election. So he was looking around for a seat to allow him back into parliament.

Sir George Baxter, a 55-year-old local man was chosen by the Dundee Unionists. He was a linen and jute owner and Chairman of Dundee and District Liberal Unionist Association, ever since its creation in 1886. He contested Montrose Burghs in 1895. Baxter was the son of the former Liberal MP for Montrose Burgh's William Edward Baxter and a great-nephew of the philanthropists Sir David Baxter and Mary Ann Baxter.[1]


The local Labour Party selected 38-year-old G. H. Stuart as their candidate. He was born in Oldham, became a postman and an activist in the Postmen's Federation.[2] He also became active in the Labour Party, and stood unsuccessfully in York at the 1906 general election,[3] His candidature was endorsed by the Scottish section of the party, but the National Executive refused to back him, as the party already held the other Dundee seat, and was concerned that it would over-reach itself.

Forty-two-year-old Edwin Scrymgeour stood as a Scottish Prohibition Party candidate. He was a native of Dundee, and a pioneer of the Scottish temperance movement and established his party in 1901 to further this aim. He had previously been a member of the Independent Labour Party. He was elected to Dundee Town Council in 1905. He had not stood for parliament before.


raw Jute

The issue of Free trade v Protectionism featured prominently in the campaign. This was because the Jute industry was significant in Dundee and it relied on importing raw Jute, mainly from India. The Unionist, Sir George Baxter, stood on a protectionist platform, focusing his protectionist demands on Germany rather than India. However, James Caird, a prominent local jute proprietor actively supported the free-trader, Churchill, by funding his pro-Free Trade propaganda.

On 14 May (after the poll), Churchill gave a significant speech at Kinnaird Hall [see external links, below].

Despite Stuart not being officially endorsed by the Labour party, the party leader, Keir Hardie sent him a letter of support in which condemned Churchill for "shameless prevarication" over the Right to Work Bill. He also spoke on Stuart's platform, and the Dundee Courier enthusiastically reported his criticisms of the Liberal Party candidate, Winston Churchill.[4] Stuart was criticised for speaking too little about socialism and for not holding membership of the Independent Labour Party.

Scrymgeour described himself as a "Prohibition and Labour" candidate. As a strict Wesleyan, he urged electors to "vote how you pray".

The Women's Social and Political Union were active in the campaign with Mary Gawthorpe, Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst holding meetings in the town. However, they were upstaged by the non-violent Women's Freedom League member Mary Maloney who came up from London for the campaign. Whenever Churchill spoke, Maloney produced a swinging dinner bell which drowned out what he was saying. The ding-dong exchanges were taken in fun initially, but some meetings had to be cancelled because of the uproar.[5]


Dundee by-election, 1908[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Winston Churchill 7,099 44.0 -8.6
Liberal Unionist George Washington Baxter 4,370 27.1 +13.9
Labour G. H. Stuart-Bunning 4,014 24.9 +1.6
Scottish Prohibition Edwin Scrymgeour 655 4.1 New
Majority 2,709 16.8
Turnout 16,138
Liberal hold Swing


General election Jan 1910: Dundee (2 seats) [7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Winston Churchill 10,747 34.1
Labour Alexander Wilkie 10,365 32.9
Conservative John Hall Seymour Lloyd 4,552 14.4
Liberal Unionist James Glass 4,339 13.8
Scottish Prohibition Edwin Scrymgeour 1,512 4.8
Turnout 31,515
Liberal hold Swing
Labour hold Swing

Churchill continued to represent Dundee until 1922. Baxter re-appeared as candidate here at the December 1910 general election, his last electoral contest. Stuart made one further unsuccessful attempt to enter parliament, otherwise he concentrated on his Trade Union career. Scrymgeour continued to contest elections in Dundee and was eventually elected here in 1922.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Churchill's Kinnaird Hall speech: https://books.google.com/books?id=vBHrEAuKNV4C&pg=PA73&dq=Dundee+by-election,+1908&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1V8PUvCHCtT30gXjg4CgCw&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Dundee%20by-election%2C%201908&f=false


  1. ^ "MS 369 Baxter family wills and related papers". Archive Services Online Catalogue. University of Dundee. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  2. ^ The Labour Who's Who: 1927, p.210
  3. ^ K. D. Brown, The First Labour Party, 1906-1914, p.108
  4. ^ K. D. Brown, The First Labour Party, 1906-1914, pp. 50–51
  5. ^ Dundee: a short history - Page 140
  6. ^ "Winston Churchill heads the poll for Dundee", The Evening Post, 20 January 1910
  7. ^ Debrett's House of Commons and the Judicial Bench, 1916