The by-election was caused by the elevation to the peerage of the sitting Liberal MP Ivor Herbert. Herbert had been MP for South Monmouthshire since 1906 before which he had had a distinguished career in the British Army as an officer in the Grenadier Guards. He was Assistant Adjutant General in South Africa from 1889–1901.
The Liberals chose Sir Garrod Thomas, then aged 63 years, a noted surgeon and newspaper proprietor as the Coalition candidate. The Conservative and Labour parties, being partners in the coalition, agreed to abide by the wartime electoral truce and not run candidates. Despite the rumour of the possible intervention of Lieutenant E A Charles, a former Liberal Party agent in the seat, neither was there any challenge from the Asquithian Liberals for whom there was little sympathy in Wales, at least during the earlier stages of Lloyd George's premiership.
Garrod Thomas was not however to get a free run. Councillor Pardoe Thomas, a member of Newport Town Council, an ex-President of the Newport Chamber of Commerce, a shipowner and shipbroker put himself forward as an Independent Democrat.
In the atmosphere of wartime Britain, the by-election was swiftly called and progressed. The nominations were in by 6 July and the date of the election set for just a week later. Cllr Thomas' position was that Parliament should be composed of businessmen but also campaigned as supporter of temperance and a voice in Parliament not bound by the party whip.
Sir Garrod Thomas appealed to the electorate's sense of patriotism and the need for solidarity during this period of great national struggle. He made the successful prosecution of the war the principal plank of his campaigning. Garrod Thomas was supported by a letter from the prime minister underlining the wartime nature of the contest and held a number of public meetings. Cllr Thomas, perhaps intimidated by what was clearly a pro-war and patriotic atmosphere, failed to match his opponent in terms of public appearances.
The electorate of South Monmouthshire seems to have been almost totally in tune with the coalition government's national appeal as they returned Garrod Thomas to Parliament with the largest ever majority achieved in the history of their constituency. Garrod Thomas achieved over 80% of the votes cast, comfortably holding the seat for the Coalition. He did not seem to take to Parliamentary life however as, apart from his maiden speech in the House of Commons on medical necessities during wartime, he does not seem to have made any other contributions of any kind. He failed to seek re-election in 1918 and did not stand for Parliament again, although he stayed active in Liberal politics and public life.
|Liberal||Abraham Garrod Thomas||6,769||90.3||+33.9|
|Independent||Bertie Pardoe Thomas||727||9.7||N/A|
- The Times House of Commons 1910; Politico’s Publishing, 2004 p73
- Who was Who, OUP online, 2007
- The Times, 5 July 1917 p3
- K O Morgan, Wales in British Politics: 1868–1922; University of Wales Press, 1963 pp277 ff
- The Times, 2 July 1917 p5
- The Times, 7 July 1917 p5
- The Times, 10 July 1917 p3
- The Times, 14 July 1917 p3
- The Times, 15 August 1917 p8
- "Sir Abraham Thomas (Hansard)".
- F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results, 1885–1918; Macmillan, 1974 p484
- The Times, 26 September 1922 p12
- The Times, 31 January 1931 p14
- Craig, F. W. S. (1974). British parliamentary election results 1885-1918 (1 ed.). London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd. ISBN 9780333169032. Page 484